One could almost see the saloon doors flapping, feel the dust coming off a dirt road and hear the unsnapping of holsters as IBM unveiled its new storage portfolio strategy today -- clearly spoiling for a showdown with EMC.
Instead of selling customers standalone hardware, or hawking an single enhancement to a software tool as it's done in the past, IBM is tying products and services together to help solve client issues -- and to sell a combined toolbox of software, hardware and services.
It's a method similar to the approach used by market leader EMC. But Big Blue said its new plan is heftier with products, and deeper, thanks to the variety of services it can add to the mix.
"We want to know what the issues are, what the concerns are and what is needed, so we can provide a tool set to help customers build and adjust infrastructures," Charlie Andrews, director of product marketing for IBM System Storage, told InternetNews.com. "We aren't offering a menu of products as that can be mind boggling. A lot of things are impacting the data center and we have the tools to help."
Big Blue's new approach comes as competition heats up for what's remaining a lucrative market in a general downturn, given that storage spending continues to climb despite larger economic woes.
It also indicates IBM's focus to shore up its customer interaction in providing and cross-selling storage solutions, according to one analyst.
"This is the single largest storage-related launch IBM has ever undertaken," Mary Johnston Turner, a senior analyst at Enterprise Storage Group, told InternetNews.com. "This is a new go-to-market strategy that will require IBM's sales and marketing organizations to engage in much more sophisticated conversations with customers."
While IBM's Andrews would not confirm that the new strategy is a move against storage leader EMC, he did admit that it's "not inconsistent with what others are doing."
"But we have all the fundamentals, better capabilities and massive IT centers where we are developing new technologies," he added. "We're learning from our own experiences and environments of customers and bringing that experience into play for other customers."
In debuting its strategy, IBM also announced 10 new products and enhancements to nearly 20 others. New offerings include a 1TB tape drive, an in-line, de-duplication tool and added services offerings. Enhancements include expanding security and encryption key management across product lines, a high-density tape storage library frame and an upgraded disk offering for mainframes.
EMC sticks to its guns
However, its rival didn't flinch when asked about IBM's new approach.
"EMC first saw the shift in the flow of the world's data several years ago and has been developing and delivering innovative information infrastructure solutions that address the challenges that IBM describes at a pace unmatched in the industry," a spokesperson told InternetNews.com.
The company pointed to a recent IDC report that noted EMC's market growth of 19.7 percent in worldwide external disk storage systems outshined IBM, which had 14.3 percent growth, and even outdid market growth overall, which was 16.7 percent.