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IBM Seeks Suite Spot

IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) is putting together a storage management suite that fits into its utility computing strategy -- and leads it down a centralized storage management path already traveled by EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) and Veritas Software Corp. (Nasdaq: VRTS).

The IBM TotalStorage Productivity Center combines applications for managing multiple storage systems though a centralized dashboard GUI (graphical user interface). The suite consists of two established applications -- Tivoli Storage Resource Manager and Tivoli SAN Manager -- and new applications for managing disk performance and data replication. The Productivity Center will be available in May with pricing starting at $5,000 for a 1 TByte configuration.

IBM also plans to add what it calls policy-based automated workflow storage management capabilities. That mouthful describes features that automate processes that administrators now do manually, such as error detection, workload monitoring, and avoiding bottlenecks. And these additions, which are planned for availability by mid-year, could set the suite apart from competitors offerings.

Key to the concept of policy-based workflow is provisioning, in which additional disk capacity is made available on an as-needed basis, allowing storage users to pay for only as much storage as they actually use. IBM marketers say it's all part of IBM’s utility computing strategy, called On Demand.

So much for the pitch. According to analyst Anne MacFarland of The Clipper Group Inc., the real significance of the IBM suite is in the way it integrates different storage functions. “Integration between the pieces is new,” she says. “It allows you to talk about storage management as a unit instead of muttering about different elements. Customers don’t want to know about all the pieces. What they want to know is if everything works together and that they can buy it simply.”

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