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What does it take to displace an incumbent storage vendor from a large enterprise SAN? In landing the business of EarthLink Inc., EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) beat out its competition with a combination of leading price and performance -- and also by convincing the Internet service provider that its systems have greatly improved interoperability.

Ronald Williams, EarthLink's senior manager of infrastructure operations architecture, says EMC's ability to play nicely with its own systems, as well as those from other vendors, was an important factor in its decision earlier this year to migrate most of its corporate data to the company's storage arrays.

"I used to see [interoperability problems] with their SCSI-based arrays four to five years ago," Williams says. "We were a little nervous about that, and we were nervous about the cost, but I think EMC is a much different company than they were a few years ago. They seem very serious about the software issue."

In fact, Atlanta-based EarthLink was so impressed with EMC's about-face that it decided to shove aside its long-standing relationships with Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW) and Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) to standardize on EMC gear for most of its corporate storage needs.

In February this year, the ISP purchased its first EMC Symmetrix DMX1000 to handle its most mission-critical data, as well as a Clariion CX600 midrange system and a Celerra NS600 NAS system to handle the rest of the data. What's more, Williams says, the service provider is already considering buying one more of each of the boxes, including another DMX.

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