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IBM, NetApp Get Cozier at EMC's Expense

IBM will resell hardware and software from Network Appliance , as both companies seek to put more distance between EMC and themselves in the storage market.

Under the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) agreement, IBM will resell networked-attached storage (NAS) , iSCSI and IP storage area network (SAN) products from NetApp.

This includes NetApp NearStore disk-based backup and archiving devices, NetApp V-Series unified storage systems and certain software offerings, said Andy Monshaw, general manager of IBM storage systems, on a conference call early Wednesday.

Monshaw also said IBM will most likely pull its own NAS gateway machines from the market, noting that NetApp offers the "industry's best solutions in this space and that's why we've chosen to go this route."

In other terms of the deal, NetApp will further integrate IBM's Tivoli storage management software, becoming a preferred backup and recovery storage product for NetApp customers. NetApp will also position IBM as its preferred supplier of tape systems for its customers, Monshaw said.

"The journey to become an on demand business is this move from a silo and point solutions to connecting across the enterprise, business partners and customers, ultimately building a fully integrated business and technology environment," Monshaw said.

The executive, who declined to reveal any financial details of the pact, also said Big Blue and NetApp are exploring additional strategic opportunities.

The deal, which comes at a time when one of the chief concerns among corporations is adhering to corporate governance and record retention regulations, makes a lot of sense for both companies.

NetApp has long been known as the leader in the NAS market, which is expected to reach more than $3 billion, according to market research firm IDC.

The company is also well regarded by analysts for its unified storage provisions, which are so-called "gateway" devices that bridge the gap between NAS and more complex SAN storage.

EMC is the No. 2 provider of NAS behind NetApp, so for IBM, the deal is especially sweet because its current NAS suite is not particularly strong. Getting closer with NetApp changes that score, said Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Tony Asaro.

"I think this has some real market implications," he said. "IBM should be able to sell lots of NAS, but they haven't had competitive products. Choosing NetApp is key because IBM needs to beat EMC. NetApp has done a good job of this in the NAS space time and time again. IBM wants to be the leading storage vendor and in order to do that they need NAS."

For this to happen, both companies must commit to making this work, Asaro added.

This isn't the first relationship between the two companies, noted NetApp CEO Dan Warmenhoven on the call. IBM's global services team has been an "important integrator" for NetApp over the last several years.

The executive said both companies have worked together on database and applications, including IBM's' DB2 Universal Database, Lotus and Rational ClearCase lines.

"This positions Network Appliance in a big way in the IBM storage equation," Warmenhoven said.