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Storage vendors jockey for position

It's not taking center stage yet, but storage was clearly a hot button among users attending the Spring COMMON conference in New Orleans. The demand for storage is great among the midrange community, vendors said. And those who exhibited here said they were thrilled to be among the first to address the growing needs of the AS/400 user.

NEW ORLEANS--The demand for better ways to manage storage has reached the AS/400 community and, according to some,...

shops using the midrange system have a larger demand for storage than any other segment of the market.

Typically underrepresented at most AS/400 conferences, there are a number of storage vendors trying to reach AS/400 users during the Spring2001 COMMON Conference and Expo being held here this week, including EMC, Tandberg Data and Neartek Inc., as well as IBM.

EMC, which has always had a relatively minor presence at this conference, is a major sponsor of this year's event. In fact, the Hopkinton, Mass-based storage giant is hosting six technical sessions addressing the storage issues of iSeries users.

According to Cyril Chiche, vice president of marketing and strategy for Neartek Inc., a New York-based provider of virtual storage solutions, more and more AS/400 shops are seeing storage as an issue that they need to address.

"A year ago, we were talking a terabyte of storage [for these shops]," said Chiche. "Today, we're seeing eight terabytes as being the norm in storage requirements. It's grown three to four fold on the AS/400 in just a year."

Perhaps more telling, however, is IBM's introduction of Fibre Channel Connectivity for the iSeries system. That additional functionality has opened up an entirely new realm of storage possibilities for iSeries shops, said EMC's Micah Waldman, a senior product strategist.

According to Hamid Vazire, EMC's market development manager, the AS/400 platform is one of four platforms on which EMC focuses. But, the availability of external or enterprise storage options, has raised huge storage issues with AS/400 users.

"The biggest obstacle is the complexity of the storage infrastructure," said Vazire. "However, (AS/400 users) have a need to handle increasing capacity, high availability with fewer resources. In that, they're not different in their needs from other IT shops. Their problems are the same."

But, he added that their lack of training and education in storage lags seriously behind users of other platforms.

"We think there's not enough education in this platform regarding storage," said Vazire.

Neartek, which supports other platforms in addition to the AS/400, is noted for its virtual storage solutions. Virtualization is almost unheard of in the AS/400 community-until now. Neartek introduced virtual tape products for the iSeries Tuesday during the conference.

The reason the demand for storage is becoming so great in the AS/400 arena is because of the development of e-business solutions, said Neartek. Users are struggling with the complexity of integration, as well.

In fact, a recent survey of 3,500 AS/400 users conducted by Neartek concluded that the two major backup concerns were integrating data into a bigger IT infrastructure and sharing tape libraries at a price that's competitive -- something only a handful of storage providers have addressed for this platform.

"Our solutions give users access to breakthrough technologies that were not available to them until now," said Chiche. "Finally, mainframe class technologies are available to this market -- at reasonable prices."


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