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Can Anyone Beat EMC?

1:40 PM -- Sears was once the dominant force in retail, yet it was eventually replaced by Wal-Mart and Target. Can anybody replace EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC), the dominant force in storage? EMC is trying to walk the line between being all things to all people and still innovating. The scope of its hardware systems ranges from the very small, via the Iomega acquisition, to the mid-range with Clariion to the extreme high end of the market. Plus, it has an ever-growing list of software solutions. If you are looking for a storage solution, no matter the size of your company, EMC is probably on the shortlist.

When a new market emerges, EMC can bring a lot of resources to bear to establish a dominant position. Sometimes, it has done this quickly through technology acquisitions, and sometimes it has done this slowly through internal development.

There is often a gap, though, between the emergence of a new market and EMC's response with a solution to that market. That time gap is usually long enough for other major players to establish themselves. A great case in point is the NAS market. EMC was slow to respond to the need for NAS-based services and its first several attempts at implementation were not well received. Its current solution seems to have pulled everything together, but during this time a multitude of companies appeared. Most also disappeared, but now companies like NetApp Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP), BlueArc Corp. , and ONStor Inc. are fixtures in the market.

Even when the gap seemingly closes, there can still be an opportunity where companies can establish new limits to that market. For example, the gap for compliance-based archives opened and closed quickly with EMC's purchase of Centera and the heavy marketing effort it put into the product. Yet, companies like Permabit Technology Corp. , Bycast Inc. , and Nexsan Technologies Inc. are all carving out space in this growing market. They expanded the conversation beyond just compliance and are talking more about disk-based archiving. This made performance, object, and capacity scalability and ease of access more of an issue.

Another gap that has been open for a few years and, for the most part, is still is open is the simplification of block storage through storage virtualization. Companies like3PAR Inc. , Compellent Technologies Inc. , and Xiotech Corp. in varying degrees have established beachheads in their respective markets by making the management of the storage system easier.

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