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IBM to focus on storage software

Confirming the storage world's shift from hardware to software, an IBM executive says software will transform the industry and continue to become a focus for Big Blue.

Confirming the storage world's shift in focus from hardware to software, an IBM executive said Tuesday that software will transform the industry and continue to become a strategic concern for Big Blue.

"Software is becoming the new battleground for our industry," IBM's storage systems general manager Dan Colby said at a company conference. "Utilization of systems is low, management costs are too high, and systems from different vendors don't connect as they should. The stage is set, and we plan to be out in front on these issues that are critical to our customers."

Colby highlighted his company's efforts to develop storage "virtualization" software, which can allow an organization to make data contained in multiple systems look and act like a single pool of information. In addition, Colby unveiled a new IBM focus on so-called "reference data"--such as e-mail, digital media and Web content--which is written once and then referred to occasionally. In a study last year, research firm Enterprise Storage Group said the amount of digitized reference data is growing at an annual rate of 92 percent, compared with growth of 61 percent for digitized nonreference data.

The storage industry has been moving toward an emphasis on software to manage data-storage systems better. Signs of the trend include storage-hardware provider EMC announcing plans this month to buy storage-software provider Legato Systems, and strong quarterly results for Veritas Software. Veritas, which makes storage-management software, posted record revenue of $413 million for the quarter ended June 30 and handily beat analysts' average earnings expectations.

IBM has released two storage products that include virtualization software: the TotalStorage Storage Area Network (SAN) Volume Controller and the TotalStorage SAN Integration Server. The SAN Volume Controller is aimed at customers who already have SANs, linked storage devices typically used by large companies. The SAN Integration Server is aimed at customers looking to implement their first SAN, as well as current SAN customers that want to implement additional SANs efficiently.

A third virtualization product, the SAN File System, will be made available later this year, according to IBM.

Also on Tuesday, IBM announced a number of enhancements to its Tivoli Storage Manager software. For example, the product now has "extended retention time," allowing data to be automatically stored for more than 82 years. IBM said this feature enables customers to comply more easily with regulations.

IBM feels good about its chances in the software arena. "We believe strongly that we've probably got a three-year lead over competitors with our storage-software technology," said Robert Samson, IBM's vice president of system sales.

Tony Prigmore, an analyst with Enterprise Storage Group, gave Big Blue high marks for its storage-management efforts. "IBM clearly has done a very nice job in the last 36 months putting together a portfolio of storage-management solutions," he said.

Prigmore suggested IBM's Tivoli Storage Manager, Tivoli Storage Resource Manager, SAN Volume Controller and forthcoming SAN File System are appealing to customers.

"The combination of these products in concert with IBM's professional services put them in a very enviable position," Prigmore said.