IBM Hopes to Nail EMC With Storage ‘Venom’

IBM next week will attack EMC after watching its long-time rival encroach on its data management territory for the last two years.

The company Monday will unveil a storage compression software, code-named Venom, designed to help customers cut their storage hardware costs and usage in half, according to an IBM note obtained by

Venom, which IBM adapted from its mainframe machines, boosts CPU and memory bandwidth of servers by compressing rows of data.

The technology has been inserted into the company’s upcoming DB2 Viper data server, currently being revved by customers and partners.

To this point, IBM has pitted DB2 as a weapon to fight rival database makers Oracle and Microsoft.

“Venom not only will attack IBM’s traditional database rivals, Oracle and Microsoft, it will take aim at a new target -– storage hardware competitor, EMC,” the letter from IBM said.

“IBM’s information management software business is going after EMC, which, due to its recent acquisition of software companies like Documentum, is increasingly competing against IBM in software, not just storage hardware.”

Venom, designed for Windows, Linux and Unix systems, works by allowing database administrators to use row compression for compressing data objects in multidimensional clusters. Row compression offers disk, input/output and memory savings for large tables with repetitive data patterns.

The company Monday also plans to introduce a new piece of software that helps customers automate storage management, a boon for administrators looking to cut back on manual upgrades.

While not familiar with Venom, IDC analyst Carl Olofson said its storage systems could do more to improve compression by involving the disk controller and adjusting the data format on disk to accommodate a compression scheme.

“I suspect that’s what’s underlying this,” Olofson said. “I also suspect that if IBM is doing it, their rivals are doing it as well. Of course, IBM will argue that DB2 Viper is specifically tuned to take advantage of this storage scheme, and so on.”

Olofson said vendors in the data management space, which include IBM, Oracle, Microsoft and EMC, are playing leapfrog in this area, with each gaining a slight temporary advantage before a rival comes out with their next release.

Pund-IT analyst Charles King noted IBM’s continuing ability to take technology from one area — in this case its mainframes — and apply it in others. IBM has also taken its mainframe virtualization technology and spread it across other server lines.

“That’s been an ongoing benefit and selling for the company for some time, especially in the storage market,” King said.

The news comes at an interesting time for IBM and EMC, fierce competitors in the market for managing data in a world where compliance regulations force businesses to hunker down and protect and serve their data.

Thanks to purchases like enterprise content management vendor Documentum and Captiva, EMC has been gaining momentum while encroaching on what IBM perceives as its data management software territory.

The rivals are also fresh off solid earnings announcements.

IBM reported sales from its middleware brands, which include WebSphere, DB2, Tivoli, Lotus and Rational products, of $3 billion, up 6 percent compared to the first quarter of 2005.

At EMC, software license and maintenance revenue jumped 11 percent to $925 million.

To fuel the fire in this war, the announcement of Venom is timed to coincide with EMC’s major technology event next week in Boston.

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