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IBM tunes storage software strategy

Big Blue says its data storage software products are selling fast, and it hopes to accelerate the trend by streamlining the way it sells them.

IBM says its data storage software products are selling fast, and it hopes to accelerate the trend by streamlining the way it sells them.

Big Blue on Tuesday estimated that sales of its storage software, such as data backup and storage management programs, grew two and a half times the overall market rate for that sector in the fourth quarter of 2003. And the company plans to make it easier for customers to buy those products in the future.

"We'll sell it through one salesperson this year," said Laura Sanders, vice president of storage management products in IBM's Tivoli Software division.

Currently, some storage software, such as IBM's Storage Area Network (SAN) Volume Controller, are sold through Big Blue's systems division, while other products are sold through its Tivoli Software unit.

Mike Kahn, an analyst with research firm The Clipper Group, said a combined sales approach should help IBM communicate with customers about its entire line of storage software products. "The separation of the storage management products into different divisions has been a handicap for IBM," he said.

Software to manage storage has become increasingly important in recent years, as companies seek to maximize the amount of time their business applications run, get better use out of their storage hardware, and limit personnel costs. In addition, organizations are facing rapid growth in the amount of data in their systems, as well as new regulations for preserving information.

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IBM rivals in the storage software business have been claiming strong gains recently. Veritas Software, for example, said its fourth-quarter revenue hit $513 million, up 26 percent from the previous year. And Legato Software, formerly Legato Systems and now a division of storage specialist EMC, said it closed the year with 1,400 new customers.

EMC and other storage companies have been pushing the concept of so-called information lifecycle management (ILM), which involves putting data on the appropriate kind of storage device as it ages. For example, information that's critical to a business may be stored on a high-performance disk-based storage system, while older, less-important data may be placed on less-expensive disks or tape.

IBM hasn't made ILM a marketing campaign. But Sanders said IBM technology has long been able to handle ILM tasks. The Tivoli Storage Manager, for example, is designed to move inactive data from expensive storage to less-expensive storage.

Another Tivoli product, Storage Resource Manager, is designed to monitor storage devices from IBM and other manufacturers. It also can add capacity automatically as needed when files grow, based on policies created by administrators, according to IBM.

IBM said its SAN Volume Controller also makes managing storage devices easier. The product is built for storage area networks, which connect computers to storage devices. SAN Volume Controller connects individual storage devices to create a larger pool in a process called "virtualization." With the software, capacity can be added automatically as applications need it.

IBM's Systems group began selling SAN Volume Controller in mid-2003, and later in the year launched another virtualization product called SAN File System. SAN File System is designed to tie together servers in multiple locations over an Internet Protocol network and then allow the SAN to look and behave like a local file system, no matter where the data resides.

IBM's Tivoli brand stems from its acquisition of Tivoli Systems in 1996. Sanders said IBM has no immediate plans to merge the two storage software efforts internally. She said IBM, which has around 350,000 employees, functions as a "matrix," where collaboration among units is possible.