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Ed Frauenheim

Staff Writer, CNET

IBM on Tuesday is expected to announce new data storage products with a design that allows for lower pricing.

The computer giant plans to introduce upper midrange and high-end disk arrays dubbed the DS6000 and DS8000, respectively, according to an industry source. Thanks to a simple system design, the devices are expected to carry a low price tag, an industry analyst said.

“IBM’s done a great job with the new architecture to save on development costs, which translates into better pricing for the users,” said the analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

An IBM representative on Monday declined to comment on the upcoming announcement.

IBM is one of the leaders in selling disk-based storage gear, which is used by organizations to hold information such as e-mail messages and can cost upwards of $1 million. With the amount of digital data increasing rapidly, storage equipment is a priority for company executives. According to a recent survey of chief information officers by Banc of America Securities, storage stands out as the greatest beneficiary of IT spending. Seventy percent of CIOs expect to increase spending on storage this year, while 62 percent expect to increase spending on PCs and servers, according to the report.

Worldwide revenue from external disk storage systems rose 8 percent in the second quarter, according to researcher IDC. IBM ranked third, behind EMC and Hewlett-Packard, with 13.5 percent market share. But IBM’s share slipped compared with the second quarter of 2003, when it was 14 percent.

Hitachi Data Systems, whose high-end storage systems are resold by Sun Microsystems and HP, introduced a new high-end product last month. Dubbed the TagmaStore Universal Storage Platform, it is designed to be able to aggregate up to 32 petabytes (or 32 million gigabytes) of internal and external storage into a single virtual storage pool.

IBM’s new gear is expected to support its “virtualization” technology. The company’s Storage Area Network (SAN) Volume Controller is software for pooling data storage devices together. Its SAN File System is designed to tie together server computers over an Internet Protocol network and then allow the SAN to look and behave like a local file system, no matter where the data resides. A storage area network links storage and server devices, allowing for more efficient use of resources.

In its report last week, Banc of America Securities said IBM had overtaken EMC as the “most trusted storage solutions vendor.” But the investment firm said EMC should remain strong despite heightened competition. “We maintain our conviction that EMC is well positioned to defend itself against product refreshes from Hitachi and IBM,” the firm wrote.