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IBM, which continues to evolve from its hardware roots to selling primarily software and services, is refreshing a number of its storage products and is counting on the channel to account for a bigger slice of its revenues. As this week’s monster performance in storage earnings indicate, Big Blue is still one of the dominant vendors in this segment, which is very good news for its channel, says Dan Galvan, VP of IBM system storage strategy.

He tells Channel Insider the company reported better-than-expected earnings for the first quarter ended March 31, with storage hardware sales up 11 percent year-over-year, disk sales up 18 percent, and combined hardware and software up 14 percent. IBM is outperforming its competitors like EMC, HP and HDS, and taking market share, and the channel accounts for the lion’s share of the business, he adds.

"This is the kind of quarter everybody wants," Galvan says.

Although a 30-year veteran at IBM, this is just Galvan’s sixth month in this position, and he says IBM storage is one of the better-kept secrets of the industry, with four consecutive quarters of growth and market-share gains. "I think the good news for us is good news for the channel. 60 percent of our business goes through the channel. We don’t survive without the channel." And for 2010, the company is looking for the channel to increase its share by at least 5 percent.

On Wednesday IBM announced new storage products as part of its 2010 lineup of workload-optimized systems. The announcements include: the addition of automatic storage tiering to the DS8700 disk storage system (Easy Tier); IBM Long Term File System; LTO Ultrium Generation 5 tape drive offerings; the addition of a ‘many-to-one’ replication feature to its ProtecTIER deduplication technology; and an extension to the XIV family.

Galvan says storage efficiency is one of the top demands of customers and Easy Tier, which automatically moves data between faster — and costlier — solid state drives and slower and cheaper disks. To be available within 30 days, Easy Tier is a no-cost microcode upgrade that watches and analyzes access patterns across disk arrays and moves the hot data to SSDs.

"What EMC is trying to do with FAST and is yet to deliver. We’re delivering with Easy Tier," he says, adding that tests have provided the same level of performance seen with high-end Fibre Channel-based drives, and IBM plans to add this capability to its SAN Volume Controller in the near future.

The channel drives 75 percent of the XIV Storage System sales, says Galvan, so adding 2Tb drives and lower voltage processors should continue the momentum which has seen more than 400 new customers added last year. The new version doubles capacity and reduces peak power usage by up to 59 percent.

"For our partners, it gives them another arrow in the quiver."

IBM acquired XIV two years ago and is nearing 2,000 new accounts added since then, at least 60 percent of which hadn’t dealt with the company in at least four years. Even better from Big Blue’s perspective, he says, is that a lot of that success has come at Sun’s expense. The company is really cranking up the pressure on Oracle and its new acquisition with double the cash rewards for partners.

Like a host of other storage vendors, IBM is jumping on the LTO-5 (Linear Tape-Open) bandwagon. Galvan says like the mainframe, rumors of tape’s death are wrong, and there’s lots of room for growth. "I think it’s a great business opportunity for us, and comes at a perfect time." He says customers have been holding off on purchases for a year or more, so there’s a lot of pent-up demand. Even better from the channel’s perspective, he adds, is that partners account for almost 70 percent of IBM’s tape sales.

Throw in the IBM Long Term File System with LTO-5 and you get another tremendous selling opportunity, adds Galvan. He believes IBM is the only vendor to offer this partitioning capability which makes tape look like disk, and expects it to do very well in the media and entertainment industry. "They have so much footage on tape, they’re looking for more disk-like access to information. Tape as disk is something I think as fun (and it’s) another good channel opportunity."

While some may debate the future of tape, everybody agrees that deduplication is the hottest storage segment in 2010, and IBM is improving its ProtecTIER deduplication technology with a ‘many-to-one’ replication feature. This allows multiple data centers or remote offices to replicate backup data to a central location, and by stripping out duplicate data before it’s replicated, can reduce the bandwidth needed to send the data by 95 percent or more.

Galvan says many of IBM’s partners have already been brought up to speed on the new announcements. Given the company’s strong results in the storage market, often at its competitors’ expense, he says there are no plans to offer additional incentives at this time, but he won’t rule them out.

"Our partners are having huge success in this space." However IBM continues to look at possible incentives, he says.