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Seagate eyes storage services market

The disk drive maker will jump into the growing market next week when it unveils a plan to provide products for companies that serve as data backbones.

Disk drive manufacturer Seagate Technology will jump into the growing market for storage services next week when it unveils a plan to provide products for companies that serve as data backbones for e-commerce operations.

The growth in Internet traffic and e-commerce has created a surging demand for storage capacity and data management, which in turn has inspired a number of companies to get into the business of supplying "server farms" and storage services for those businesses who cannot, or do not, want to manage this mountain of data themselves. Intel and Hewlett-Packard have already unveiled plans to move into this area.

Next week, Seagate will announce a partnership with an as-yet named company to go for this market, said a Seagate spokesman. Seagate will not likely operate server farms. Instead, the company will market storage products and develop architectural technologies, which others will then take to create storage facilities.

"We see it as an area of potential opportunity," the spokesman said.

The move to grow beyond mere hard disks parallels hard disk maker Quantum's acquisition last week of Meridian Data for $85 million. The acquisition enhanced Quantum's stature from a hard disk maker to a seller of special-purpose, low-cost storage servers.

The Meridian name will be phased out, but Quantum will keep the "Snap!" storage product name. There currently are three Snap! models, but Quantum plans to broaden the line, said Peter van Cuylenburg, president of Quantum's digital tape library and storage systems group.

The Meridian products fall into the category of "network-attached storage," or NAS, an increasingly crowded product area designed to easily expand the amount of storage on local networks, usually without having to worry whether the network is populated with Unix or Windows computers.

The Meridian products, like Network Appliance products, use a proprietary, high-speed operating system for the purpose. The NAS products compete with offerings from Auspex and, in the future, Hewlett-Packard.

Eventually, Quantum hopes to incorporate storage management software from the Meridian products directly into its individual hard disks, van Cuylenburg said.

Van Cuylenburg said he believes the distinction is vanishing between primary storage, meaning hard disks, and the slower secondary storage, typically tape storage. The company predicts a hybrid product with tape and disk systems in the same cabinet, which will simplify high-end storage systems, he said.