Compaq-Digital #1 in storage

Compaq-Digital #1 in storage

By Zachary Shess

Compaq`s acquisition of Digital Equipment Corp. will bump IBM from its position as the world`s largest vendor of storage systems. According to International Data Corp., a market research firm in Framingham, MA, Compaq and Digital had combined storage revenues of more than $4.9 billion last year.

While officials at the newly formed Compaq Storage Products Division are happy to flex their muscles, they are quick to emphasize that Digital`s storage customers will not be left behind and should not expect any dramatic product changes in the immediate future. Compaq officials also say it is still "premature" to discuss potential layoffs in the storage areas.

According to Bob Davis, director of storage marketing for the Storage Products Division, Compaq will retain and leverage Digital`s StorageWorks brand, a product line that helps increase Compaq`s competitiveness in the enterprise storage arena. Davis and others see StorageWorks as a springboard into new areas, with not much overlap with existing Compaq storage products.

"When it was just a matter of selling RAID arrays on Compaq servers, it was an easy sell. But recently we found customers wanted two things that Compaq couldn`t provide. One, they wanted a high-availability solution and, two, they wanted connectivity to multi-platform environments," says Davis.

"The product overlap is minimal," says Howard Elias, a Digital veteran recently named vice president and general manager of the new storage division. "It exists in devices--tape drives, disk drives, controllers, adapters, hubs. We`ll address that over time, but only after we`ve gone through the process with our customers and made sure they have a qualified product to move to."

Compaq officials promise that no product will be discontinued immediately. Their recently announced "Golden Blanket Program" calls for products to be integrated at a rate that will allow customers to plan for future expenditures. Support for already-purchased products will be available to Digital customers for the balance of the product life cycle. Example: "As the demand shifts away from Wide Ultra SCSI to Ultra 2, we`ll transition to a new set of products--Compaq-branded in common drive trays, server backplanes, and storage subsystem architectures," says Davis.

The companies` resellers will be slower to merge. Prior to the acquisition announcement in January, Compaq had planned on announcing its Enterprise Solution Provider program in July.

With Digital now onboard with its 150 StorageWorks resellers, the two programs may not be fully integrated until late this year. In the interim, the two programs will run independently.

"We`re treating our resellers the same as our end-users: No abrupt changes or cancellations. We`re going to protect everyone`s investments," says Elias.

From a product standpoint, the first joint solution is already under way. The StorageWorks RAID array 7000 and Compaq`s Enterprise Storage Array 10000 are being certified with Compaq`s high-end ProLiant servers to enhance the company`s enterprise-level Windows NT storage offerings.

To complement Digital`s Fibre Channel RAID arrays, Compaq is developing a consolidated tape backup product that will attach to a Fibre Channel network. As part of the development, the company is working with Computer Associates and Seagate Software to re-work its storage management software. The product is currently in beta and is scheduled for release later this year.

This article was originally published on August 01, 1998