IBM vs. EMC for Wal-Mart

Big Blue wins latest round, but EMC wants to set the record straight.

IBM and EMC are both claiming victory in a showdown to meet Wal-Marts IT needs.

IBM on Monday disclosed that Wal-Mart plans to standardize its "worldwide data center infrastructure" on Big Blues Enterprise Storage Servers (code named Shark) and eServer z900 mainframes. The announcement was a thinly veiled assault on EMCs enterprise storage business.

But within hours of the IBM announcement, EMC was asking for equal time. In an unsolicited e-mail to Smart Partner, an EMC spokeswoman wrote that IBM "bundled the storage [systems] into what was primarily a mainframe and services deal, [which] enabled [IBM] to sell the storage at a deep discount. Storage represented a small fraction of the entire transaction."

"EMC continues to be Wal-Marts primary information storage provider," the EMC spokeswoman wrote. "And [Wal-Mart] continued to invest in EMC information storage systems, software and networking throughout 2001."

The spokeswoman estimated that Wal-Mart stores more than three times as much data on EMC systems than IBM systems. She also notes that Wal-Mart uses EMC storage systems to manage Unix and Windows NT environments, while IBMs storage systems are widely limited to applications that are "directly attached to IBM mainframes."

Still, the IBM win underscores Big Blues flexibility as a soup-to-nuts provider of hardware, software and support services. In addition to buying IBMs mainframe and storage systems, Wal-Mart is a long-time user of IBMs DB2 (for mainframes) and Informix databases (for in-store systems).

IBM purchased Informix earlier this year, partly because of pressure from Wal-Mart. The retail giant was concerned that Informix could not survive as an independent company.