Hitachi, NetApp Offer EMC Alternative

Duo seeks to offer alternative for a high-end network-attached storage gateway to Fibre Channel disks.

Storage administrators seeking an alternative to EMC Corp. for a high-end network-attached storage gateway to Fibre Channel disks will get a new choice next year from Hitachi Ltd. and Network Appliance Inc.

An as-yet unnamed product the two companies are developing will ship early next year and will connect Hitachis midrange Thunder and high-end Lightning storage series behind NetApps technology, executives from both firms said Wednesday.

"We see this as an opportunity to go after a market segment that really doesnt exist today, which is a combination of SAN [storage-area networks] and NAS on a very large scale," said Dave Roberson, president and chief operating officer of Hitachis Santa Clara, Calif.-based Hitachi Data Systems division. Product details and pricing wont be announced until next year, he said.

For end users, "I think this is going to be viewed as a credible alternative to [EMCs] Celerra," said Robert Montague, analyst with RBC Capital Markets, in Memphis, Tenn.

In response, EMC officials Wednesday said customers should be leery. Hitachi and NetApp could have trouble integrating their operating systems, said Ken Steinhardt, director of technology analysis. Though Celerra had to do that as well, EMC didnt have to worry about protecting intellectual property, said Steinhardt, in Hopkinton, Mass.

But, "technically this is not a hard problem," NetApp CEO Dan Warmenhoven said in an interview with eWEEK. With a user, NetApp has tested connecting its front-end technology to EMCs own products, and that took less than a day, he said. Also, both Hitachis and NetApps management software already use early versions of the Common Information Model, he said.

"I think there are other opportunities," he added, citing the storage products of IBM, Hewlett-Packard Co., LSI Logic Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. "There may be cannibalization of NetApp disk drives, but thats not where our value-add is," he said. HP and Sun are already Hitachi resellers, but this deal doesnt apply to them, officials said.

Next week, EMC is expected to announce new Celerra interoperability with its midrange Clariion systems, sources close to EMC said. Currently it works with the high-end Symmetrix storage.