Fujitsu Takes Storage Management Leap

As more companies jump into the storage management software space, customers are seeing less difference in the range of products being offered

As more companies jump into the storage management software space, customers are seeing less difference in the range of products being offered.

Fujitsu Ltd. became the latest company to join a market that is expected to grow to about $16 billion in 2004. Last week, the Tokyo-based vendor announced it was forming Fujitsu Software Technology Corp., also known as Softek.

The spinoff, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., will incorporate intellectual property and resources from Amdahl Corp., another Fujitsu company, and will build products for topology discovery, virtualization and automated policy management.

Softek is planning to sell the products via its direct sales force.

Meanwhile, on a smaller scale, startup Mountain View Data Inc. is shopping around for OEM partners to sell its own storage management software tools.

Throughout this year, the San Francisco company expects to release server software that does real-time data replication over a WAN, snapshot software that makes copies at the file level and virtualization software.

But with all these storage management tools flooding the market, customers still are having a difficult time figuring out what differentiates them.

"None of [the vendors] have come to me and shown any significant difference," said Jerry Lynch, director of the operations division at Online Computer Library Center Inc., in Dublin, Ohio. "I suspect the consultants and the integrators are going to have a field day. There are just so many partnerships going on. And [the products] do all the same thing."

Some of Softeks new storage management products, scheduled for general release in May and June, include Storage Virtualization, for logical disk pooling; SANView, for topology discovery; and Storage Manager, for monitoring capacity and performance.

"We have seen estimates that the cost of managing storage is about three to nine times the actual cost of storage," said Nick Tabellion, Softeks chief technology officer. "Fujitsu recognizes that this is a significant market, and it has to get into it at a very early stage."

Specifically, Tabellion said, up to 91 percent of the cost of storage is management; about 9 percent is the actual hardware.

Tabellion acknowledged that it will be difficult for companies to differentiate themselves among all these storage management products and services. However, unlike Compaq Computer Corp. or EMC Corp., Softek does not have to worry about protecting an installed client base.

"We can be like mavericks. We can go out there and do what we want and not worry about eating our former children," Tabellion said.