IBM, Compaq begin joint product rollouts

By Richard R. Lee


IBM recently announced the first product rollout associated with its strategic agreement with Compaq. Based on Compaq's Storage Works Modular Array 8000, IBM's Modular Storage Server (MSS) is a high-end disk array with Fibre Channel host attachments and Ultra SCSI disk drives. The product announcement came less than two months after the companies' joint agreement and represents "Phase 1" of their plan to work together on products and standards, while remaining fiercely competitive in market segments they both serve.

Since their an-nouncement, IBM and Compaq have trained thousands of employees and business partners on their respective products and support requirements, according to Mike Harrison, IBM's director of storage alliances. This has been done in an effort to create a range of "open, interoperable storage solutions," says Harrison.

Both companies have dedicated, cross-functional teams responsible for the OEM hardware, software (mostly Tivoli-based), and joint development efforts (such as Compaq's VersaStor).

Details of the overall agreement have just begun to emerge. As structured, there are two phases of product announcements.

Phase 1 is based on IBM rolling out a version of Compaq's StorageWorks disk arrays, which began last month, and Phase 2 will be Compaq's rollout of a version of IBM's ESS Shark enterprise disk array. Each product line will be accompanied by training, support, and joint interoperability testing endeavors to ensure that both IBM and Compaq customers are supported, regardless of who supplied the products.

The agreement includes the following components:

  • The endorsement by Compaq of IBM/ Tivoli's Enterprise Management Soft-ware Platform (on a non-exclusive basis).
  • A joint development agreement in which Compaq and IBM (and Tivoli) work together to develop industry standards for software interoperability in regard to Compaq's VersaStor storage virtualization initiative (see InfoStor, July 2000, p. 16) and IBM's Storage Tank file-level virtualization initiative. The companies will develop complementary APIs, along with creating a policy-based management infrastructure that can support disaster recovery, backup/restore, quality of service, and other storage area network (SAN) management requirements.

These will be submitted to the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) in the form of API sets for standardization.

  • OEM agreements between the two companies for IBM's Shark and Compaq's StorageWorks MA 8000 disk arrays.
  • An agreement between Compaq and IBM's International Global Services (IGS) organization in respect to pre-sales and post-sales support into System/390 mainframe accounts.
  • An agreement to jointly develop and support industry standards and inter operability testing for the two companies' respective SAN solutions and components.

IBM's MSS disk array has a number of software features provided by Compaq, including a point-in-time copy function and Peer-to-Peer Remote Copy (PPRC) for disaster recovery applications. IBM will also add its own software functionality in the form of StorWatch Specialist and DataPath Optimizer (DPO) for enterprise-level environments.

The array uses IBM's 10,000rpm and 15,000rpm disk drives and rack technology, coupled with Compaq's backplane, controller, firmware, and storage building blocks (SBBs).

IBM has indicated that it will focus marketing and sales efforts on lower-capacity points (500GBs and below) in the Unix and Intel server segments, which have not been well served by IBM's existing repertoire of products.


The validation of any strategic alliance is how well it is executed, not only in terms of meeting stated goals, but also in respect to timely product delivery. With this announcement, IBM and Compaq validate their partnership in terms of product time-to- market.

The more interesting development to come out of this joint venture is how Com-paq's VersaStor and IBM's Storage Tank will play together in the SAN arena. IBM has not announced plans to license VersaStor (block-level virtualization), but is nonetheless going to work with Compaq to make sure that VersaStor plays well with Storage Tank (file-level virtualization) as well as Tivoli's enterprise and storage management frameworks.

Storage virtualization is critical for the developing SAN market. Virtualization will enable SANs to deliver on many of the initial promises, which will otherwise go unfulfilled.

It is clear that no single storage virtualization solution will emerge as the sole winner, so it is prudent that IBM, Compaq, and others provide mechanisms for interoperability.

Click here to enlarge image

MIKE HARRISON Director of storage alliances, IBM

MSS disk array at a glance

Model: 2106 Model 200
Controller cache: Up to 1GB
(512MB per controller)
Host interfaces: 4 Fibre Channel (2 per controller)
Drive interfaces: Ultra SCSI
Capacity: Up to 4TB
Drives: 18GB, 36GB, 72GB. 10,000rpm or 15,000rpm. 72 drives per controller pair.
RAID levels: 0, 1, 0+1, 3/5

This article was originally published on October 01, 2000