IBM to woo EMC customers

Big Blue has a plan to snag customers who use storage gear from rival EMC. It includes a device that shifts data from EMC to IBM boxes without any computer downtime, Big Blue says.

IBM has a new plan to snag customers who are using data storage gear from rival EMC.

The customer-poaching effort, announced Wednesday, includes a patent-pending hardware device that lets organizations shift data from EMC boxes to IBM equipment without any computer system downtime, according to IBM. The program also includes a set of cost-analysis tools and involves more than 100 advisers to help customers make the switch.

"This migration program is intended to help customers realize substantial technology and cost benefits offered by IBM storage products," Dan Colby, general manager of IBM storage systems, said in a statement.

EMC spokesman Greg Eden suggested that his company has little to fear. He pointed to financial results from both companies' most recent quarter. IBM said its storage hardware revenue grew 6 percent year-over-year. EMC's storage hardware revenue grew 21 percent year-over-year, Eden said. "EMC clearly has momentum over IBM," he said.

Both IBM and EMC make high-end, disk drive-based storage products capable of holding many terabytes of data. They also compete in the midtier disk-based storage market. IBM said its new program to woo EMC clients will begin with a focus on the high-end arena, where IBM Enterprise Storage Server ("Shark") devices compete against EMC Symmetrix machines.

John McArthur, an analyst with research firm IDC, said IBM's move is part of a running battle between the companies: "It's another assault in a long-standing war...EMC will come back swinging."

McArthur said migrating data is one of the biggest issues for companies looking to swap storage equipment. But he said other technologies for data migration are available, from companies including EMC. "There's more than one way to skin this," he said.

IDC predicts the overall disk storage systems market will grow modestly over the next several years, from $21.2 billion this year to $23.8 billion in 2007.

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