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Big Blue Makes Three-Pronged Storage Push

Looking to close the gap on EMC Corp. and Veritas Software Inc. in the Storage Management Software sector, IBM Corp. on Tuesday shed light on its three-pronged strategy to embrace Linux technologies and standards-based management interfaces.

Big Blue's previously-announced strategy promises to increase the amount of data that customers can store and speed up data transfer and by leaning heavily on a Linux-based virtualization engine, Storage Tank and Standards-based management interfaces, IBM said its offerings would "remove barriers" to data access and reduce IT costs for customers.

"Customers are at a point where proprietary vendor initiatives and technology complexity are preventing them from effectively managing and exploiting networked mission-critical data... We're working to remove barriers to data access with (technology) that will help customers plan and transition to highly intelligent and cost-effective storage networks," said Linda Sanford, senior VP of IBM Storage Systems Group.

With the Linux-based virtualization engine, IBM has developed software aimed at reducing the total cost of ownership by enabling systems administrators to view and access a common pool of storage on a network, and to increase storage use on existing storage servers.

The latest push by IBM comes just one day after Computer Associates , another player in the space, unveiled its Enterprise Storage Automation strategy, promising functional intelligence, dynamic storage provisioning and policy definitions to IT managers.

Research from Gartner's Dataquest has pegged revenues from worldwide storage software in 2001 in the vicinity of $5 billion in 2001, a lucrative market for the top four players and IBM believes its standards-based push will give it a leg up on the competition.

The Armonk, N.Y-based tech giant is touting its Storage Tank as the first file system optimized for accessing, saving, sharing and managing files on storage networks.

It embraces open management standards-based management interfaces centered around the software model proposed by the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) and designed to allow any storage system or device, such as Storage Tank and virtualization engine, to be managed by standards-based storage management software, including software from IBM's Tivoli Division.

Taking a jab at what it described at "narrowly-focused efforts" by competitors aiming only at the storage block level, IBM said its software roadmap addresses customer needs at both block and file levels by combining technologies with open, industry-wide programming interfaces to support interoperability with software from other vendors.

"In addition, IBM's roadmap for the delivery of storage infrastructure software from its Storage Systems Group complements the storage management software roadmap from Tivoli," IBM said.

The company said the virtualization engine would be implemented on the IBM eServer xSeries systems running Linux, and promising to provide a single point of control over disk storage capacity (block level management) within a storage network. The architecture is complementary to the "Shark" IBM TotalStorage Enterprise Storage Server.

"This is intended to allow customers to move data, add physical disks and reallocate spare storage capacity without impacting the performance or availability of applications," Sanford said.

IBM said it would provide Storage Tank application server support for multiple operating systems, including AIX, Solaris, HP/UX, Linux, and Windows 2000/XP platforms. To prod industry adoption of Storage Tank, Big Blue said it would release a free source code reference implementation of the application server module and publish the protocol between the application server and the metadata server.