Storage maker Network Appliance is likely to expand its assault on higher-end rival EMC through a partnership with Hitachi Data Systems, a Wall Street analyst said Monday.
Network Appliance and EMC formerly were in separate segments of the storage market, but in the last year have been encroaching on each other's turf. NetApp has traditionally specialized in "network-attached storage" systems, which share files, but this fall the company began expanding to EMC's and Hitachi Data Systems' area of expertise, "storage area networks," higher-end technology that makes storage systems connected over a network look to administrators just like the hard drives mounted inside a server.
"A partnership between HDS and NetApp may be considered," Merrill Lynch analyst Steve Milunovich said in a report Monday after visiting the companies. "If the financials are reasonable, this should give NetApp some extra punch at the high end and could remove a competitor at the same time."
Representatives for Hitachi Data Systems and Network Appliance declined to comment on the report.
Hitachi Data Systems' "Lightning" system has proved an effective competitor to EMC's high-end Symmetrix as the storage system used in SANs. HDS sells the systems directly but has shown an inclination toward partnership as well: Lightning systems are the foundation of the high-end storage products from Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems.