In a counter-attack against its biggest storage competitor, IBM has decided to resell most of the products of Network Appliance with Big Blue’s brand stamped on them.

“”This is a pretty big opportunity for our business partners, who have been asking us ‘When are you going to make us more

competitive in the NAS (network attached storage) market?'”” said Bob Mahoney, IBM’s worldwide vice-president for storage networking.

The OEM agreement also allows IBM to sell NetApp’s iSCSI/IP storage area network (SAN) solutions, including the NearStore and NetApp V-Series systems and associated software.

The deal also promotes enhanced integration of NetApp applications with IBM Tivoli Storage Manager. And NetApp said it will position IBM as its preferred supplier of tape solutions for its customers.

Mahoney made no attempt to hide that EMC Corp. is his company’s main target in this move, although he did say that other storage competitors such as Hitachi Data Systems, Hewlett-Packard and Dell are also in its sights.

Customers are looking for total solutions from a single vendor, he said in explaining the move. And while IBM has a NAS gateway, it doesn’t have a file storage system.

He also is setting some high goals. “”We’re expecting all of our business partners to pick this up,”” he said.

Product will be available as early as possible in the third quarter, he said, and pricing will be “”very aggressive.”” There will also be a major marketing campaign. “”We are expecting to make a big splash on this,”” said Mahoney. “”Our plan is to make sure this is well marketed and well broadcast.””

To help partners, loaner machines will be available and IBM learning centers will also have equipment.

He refused to comment on possible partner margins.

IBM partners will have to be certified to sell the lines. A training process for sales and technical staff will be set up in the middle of next month or in June. “”I don’t think the tests will be too onerous,”” he added.

“”To be linked with IBM is awesome,”” said Patrick Rogers, NetApp’s vice-president of partners and solutions. Until this deal it’s route to market was through Arrow and Avnet distributors.

IBM’s strength is its ability to deliver entire systems, he said. “”Now we can compete with complete solutions”” in information lifecycle management projects or storage consolidation.

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