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Big Blue, EMC tighten storage ties

The tech giants ramp up efforts to harmonize their rival data storage technologies, a move aimed at helping customers that use products from both companies.

Rivals IBM and EMC have announced they are building up efforts to harmonize their data storage technologies.

The technology giants said on Monday that they have agreed to improve how their storage systems, servers and software work together and fit together, in order to benefit customers using those products in mixed storage environments. The extended relationship is specifically aimed at helping customers who use EMC storage technology with IBM mainframe computers.

"We know there are a lot of customers out there running IBM mainframe technology, and we've always supported compatibility," said Chuck Hollis, vice president of platforms marketing at EMC. "Customers want more ability to deploy technology from both vendors faster, and that's what they're getting through this agreement."

As part of the deal, the companies have created a framework for the exchange of programming interfaces--largely based around the Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S)--for their disk storage products. EMC is also licensing technology from IBM to improve compatibility for its customers using Big Blue's mainframes. In addition, the companies agreed to extend their existing support agreement to include an increased number of storage products.

Executives from the companies were quick to point out that they still plan to "compete vigorously" in the storage market, but said it was necessary to strengthen ties to better serve customers with technology from both companies. Representatives estimated that the two companies currently share "many thousands" of storage customers.

"It's very clear that customers were demanding this, they need ways to spend less time and money making all the plumbing work together," said Roland Hagan, vice president of storage marketing at IBM. "This can be seen as another step in driving more-effective open storage standards."

Hagan said he believes the storage industry lags behind other technology sectors in driving industry standards. IBM, based in Armonk, N.Y., views the relationship with EMC as a good opportunity to derive revenue from the many storage technology patents it holds.

Through the agreement, IBM licensed interfaces for its TotalStorage Enterprise Storage Server in order to support compatibility with EMC's Symmetrix DMX storage systems--specifically for peer-to-peer remote copy and extended remote copy functions. For its part, Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC gains access to Big Blue's FlashCopy, Multiple Allegiance and Parallel Access Volumes technology under the deal.