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The SAN That Wasn't There

A month ago, Hitachi Ltd. (NYSE: HIT; Paris: PHA) and IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) announced a two-part deal, under which they will (a) combine their hard disk drive businesses and (b) jointly develop "technologies for next-generation storage networks" (see IBM and Hitachi Gang Up on EMC).

It seems like it should be a big deal. After all, these are two Very Big Technology Firms dancing with each other. But only half of it is really substantial.

The first part is logical. The price of magnetic disk drives continues to fall faster than the batting average of Chicago Cubs first baseman Fred McGriff (he's hitting .214!). Consolidation is the way commodity markets evolve.

It's the second part of their arrangement that looks suspiciously like a low-calorie snack. The lack of substantive details about IBM and Hitachi's supposed joint development on next-generation SANs is making it look like cheap talk -- designed primarily to portray their common enemy, EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC), as locking customers into its proprietary platform.

Officials from Hitachi and IBM insist that more details are coming on their storage networking alliance. "At this point, not everything is defined," says Marlene Woodworth, VP of marketing at Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), the company's global sales and marketing unit for storage.

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