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Smackdown Time at SAN Soiree

PALO ALTO, Calif. Was it a panel discussion about network storage, or a computer-industry version of WWF Smackdown? For a little while Thursday night, it was a bit of both.

Normally genteel affairs, the most recent dinner sponsored by the Churchill Club (a group that regularly hosts Silicon Valley high-tech think-and-drink gatherings) plunged briefly into a who's-your-momma? discussion about market share figures, with representatives from IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC), and Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP) the main antagonists.

Later on in the evening, the discussion shifted to more meaty topics, including the thorny questions of interoperability, and the future of Ethernet and IP-related technologies, like iSCSI (see Sneaky iSCSI Gathers Momentum). Perhaps the panelists couldn't be blamed for simply trying to outboast each other at the start, given the sophmoric level of questioning provided by the evening's moderator, Eric Pfeiffer, features editor at Forbes ASAP (first question: "Why is storage so sexy?" Pul-eeze!).

At one point, Linda Sanford, executive and senior VP, IBM Storage Systems Group, tried to claim that IBM was "winning market share from our buddies," which drew a quick, witty riposte of "Sez who?" from Donald Swatik, VP of global alliances at EMC. Sanford gave as good as she got, however, countering Swatik's claim about growing market share with a blistering retort of, "Those numbers are from [fiscal] 2000 -- how'd you do in the first quarter?"

After a couple more entertaining minutes of dubious market-share barbs, Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) CEO Greg Reyes finally righted the discussion's ship by quipping, "Do we vote somebody off now?"