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New Tactics

EMC has slashed prices, formed alliances, and embraced standards. What a change.
A competitor of EMC's at the high end of the market predicts channel confusion ahead. "Who's going to sell it?" asks Scott Genereux, VP of global marketing and business development at Hitachi Data Systems. "EMC sells to the high end, uses Dell to sell to small and midsize businesses, and Dell has its own Windows-based NAS. I'm not sure how it's meaningful to the customer."

EMC says many of its partnerships bring added value to customers through services. For instance, it will work closely with Oracle to analyze customer needs and design, configure, and install the 9i database on its NAS devices. That's uncharted territory for many companies, as most databases run on servers, not NAS devices. The joint implementation services will sell for less than $50,000, but the database on EMC's NS600 will cost extra.

JetBlue's Cohen says he has yet to be disappointed by EMC's services. "I've brought EMC people in project by project, when my own people would be wandering around in the dark," he says. One other thing he likes: "EMC doesn't stay for nine years like other consulting companies."

Meanwhile, the deal EMC struck last week with Cisco is similar to an arrangement it has with networking vendor Brocade Communications Systems Inc. Like that one, the Cisco deal has the potential to lower the cost of storage by moving some management functions to other devices. EMC and Cisco will work on integrating EMC's APIs for backup and recovery and storage-resource management into the networking vendor's multiprotocol MDS 9000 line of switches and directors. Moving those tasks to the switch will free up servers and storage arrays, letting them perform better. Cisco and EMC say they plan to submit their APIs to the Storage Networking Industry Association on the way to establishing a standard for moving server and storage applications to the network.

EMC has even more ambitious plans for its storage-management software, adding capabilities known as volume management that let businesses ensure data integrity across complex storage networks, automatically anticipate and recognize volume growth, and import point-in-time copies of data without shutting down systems. Most important, EMC promises that by year's end PowerPath 4.0 will manage storage systems from HDS, HP, and IBM.

"EMC is a better infrastructure player now because it'll run its software across anybody's system," says Meta Group analyst Carl Greiner. "It'll be up against HP, IBM, and Veritas, but EMC is slightly in the forefront at this point in time."

That draws a scoff from market-leader Veritas. "We built Volume Manager 12 years ago," says Jeremy Burton, chief marketing officer at Veritas. "Sun's got one and HP's got one. Welcome to the party, EMC. It's rocking, and we've got 70% share."

Still, EMC's changed attitude is having an impact. "It works more as a partner now," says Laura Fucci, chief technology officer at MGM-Mirage, a $4.8 billion-a-year operator of casinos and resorts. Fucci has been soliciting quotes from EMC since 1998, but she didn't buy Symmetrix storage until prices came down about a year ago and EMC enhanced its replication software, making it easier to use to meet her disaster-recovery requirements. MGM-Mirage now has two Symmetrix systems and is planning for a third. "They're in here understanding our business problems and trying to solve them with technology. They look at our long-term strategy, not the next sale."

EMC is the second company Tucci has turned around. Before joining the storage vendor, he helped to transform Wang Computer Systems from a fading hardware vendor into a profitable workflow-services company, which was eventually sold. It's clear Tucci is making good progress in his latest role, but he isn't willing to say EMC has turned the corner just yet. "We'll stay on edge because I'm not a bow taker," he says. "I'm never satisfied."