In an effort to sway value-added resellers (VARs), systems integrators and other decision makers to take a second look at its high-end products, Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) is taking pot shots at EMC's introduction of the new Symmetrix DMX-3 950.
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But analysts are skeptical that HDS's criticisms are enough to change storage plans.
According to HDS, its NSC55 system packs more features and speed than the EMC product. It offers embedded virtualization, logical partitioning and 4 Gbps Fibre Channel connectivity plus security features -- none of which the EMC DMX-3 950 can match.
However, Aaron Rakers, enterprise storage and networking analyst at A.G. Edwards & Sons, said such comparisons won't fundamentally change the buying decisions of either end-user customers or VARs.
The Hitachi NSC55 product's virtualization capability does give it a competitive edge over EMC's unit, Rakers said. But VARs, systems integrators and others have to think about more than just a single-function comparison -- even for a feature as important as virtualization.
"I believe in storage we've moved well beyond a feeds-and-speeds argument to much more of a discussion on whose got a broader solution set from software to services and everything wrapped around that," Rakers said.
Many companies use product specifications for competitive marketing, but that sparring doesn't have much effect on the VARs who have to make the products work for customers, according to Richard Bocchinfuso, vice president and chief technology officer at MTI Technology, Inc., a storage distributor for EMC.
"There is a segment of the market that is interested in the specs, but for the most part VARs, systems integrators and customers are looking for complete solutions that solve real world business problems," Bocchinfuso said.
Yet, Claus Mikkelsen, chief scientist at Hitachi Data Systems, still thinks it's not too late to lure IT integrators into choosing Hitachi's NSC55 over the DMX-3 950, especially since there has been an overall decline in replacement costs.
"Our research indicates that IT managers would not suffer the costs of seamlessly integrating HDS into their existing storage environments," said Mikkelsen,
According to Mikkelsen, clients can acquire a Hitachi Intelligent Virtual Storage Controller (USP or NSC) and seamlessly assimilate the controller architecture into their existing storage infrastructure via the products' embedded virtualization layer.
Rakers, however, said that when IT executives think about change, they tend to look at more than just one SKU.
"When you're talking about an EMC sale you're talking about software and services, you're not just talking about one single box and I think that's where Hitachi has a challenge -- they don't have as broad a product portfolio as what EMC can bring to the table," Rakers said.
Other EMC product introductions announced this week included a native multiprotocol (Fibre Channel and iSCSI) support with the CLARiiON CX3-20 and CX3-40 arrays, its new virtual tape library and its refreshed line up of the Celerra IP Storage Platforms – the Celerra NS40 and NS80 solutions, which Rakers said may give Network Appliance, Inc. (NetApp), greater competition in the midrange storage market.
According to Rakers in the aftermath of NetApps' own product improvements over the last several quarters, EMC's announcements could cause greater competitive pressure on NetApp.
Still, MTI Technology's Bocchinfuso said many storage vendors have developed products that have leveled the playing field, and that vendors, VARs and systems integrators will have to offer something more as they seek to gain greater market share.
"There is a lot of parity in the marketplace and everyone is struggling to get above the noise, but at the end of the day it comes down to relationship, trust and the ability to solve a real business problem," Bocchinfuso said.