IBM expands free storage trial in Asia

Computer giant IBM is expanding its network attached storage (NAS) free trial program in Asia to include higher-end products.

SINGAPORE--Computer giant IBM is expanding its network attached storage (NAS) free trial program in Asia to include higher-end products.

Called NAS TIKI (Try It, Keep It), the program was first launched in July. It provides companies with a 30-day free trial of IBM's entry-level NAS 200 hardware. Now, Big Blue has added its high-end storage products, NAS 300 and 300G, to the program.

"The response was very positive and we want to expand this program (TIKI) to include our NAS 300 range of products," claimed Daniel Ng, IBM Asia Pacific director for Volume Products, Storage System Group.

When NAS TIKI was launched two months ago, Ng said the firm would consider making the other models (NAS 300 and 300G) available to companies, "provided we have available units and if their business justifies using a higher-end machine."

Since the launch, the program has attracted several requests for NAS 300 and 300G, Ng claimed.

"There were too many exceptions...when you make too many exceptions, you might as well make it the rule," he told Singapore.CNET.com.

To date, approximately 40 companies have signed up for the TIKI trial. Of these, five are now NAS customers, while most of the remainder are either in the midst of buying or have shown keen interest in acquiring the products, Ng claimed.

According to him, about 20 to 25 percent of companies that responded to TIKI were from Indonesia, while 15 to 20 percent came from Singapore. The remainder were spread across India, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.

Although, TIKI has been well-received in Asean, Ng admitted that adoption was slower among non-English-speaking markets such China, Japan and Korea. Nevertheless, he was optimistic that it would eventually catch on.

Storage market is big enough
Ng believes that the TIKI program would probably allow IBM to take over some of its competitors' market share in Asean.

However, some analysts are skeptical. "There is still a big market for the storage industry...I don't think they are taking over anybody's market share," said International Data Corporation (IDC) Asia Pacific senior analyst for tape and optical storage Martin Wijaya.

"(Nevertheless), I believe that this program will give the competition a run for their money," Wijaya added.

Ian Bertram, Gartner Dataquest Asia Pacific regional director (Hardware Platforms) concurred. "The storage industry has become very vital...more so following the tragic event in the US last week. More companies will need storage," Bertram said.

Gartner predicts that revenue from storage would outstrip services revenue by 2004, he added.

On the TIKI plan, Bertram noted: "This sort of program has been well used as a marketing technique and it originated in the consumer market. (However), NAS is not your typical consumer product. Perhaps what IBM is doing here is to create some brand awareness and try to retain these customers."

"You can look at the program as a catalyst to creating awareness among small- and medium-sized businesses. It is much easier to keep your existing customers than take on new customers...This program will focus on creating that loyalty and that's what IBM is good at," he added.

Competitors not threatened
When contacted, storage rivals EMC and NetAppliance said they were not threatened by IBM's move.

"I can understand IBM's standpoint...It is a new player in the NAS area and it needs to build the awareness and what better way to do it than by providing a free trial," NetAppliance regional director Chan Chee Keong told Singapore.CNET.com in a telephone interview this afternoon.

"We see this as healthy competition. We'd rather there be competition than us championing a lone cause," Chan added.

He was confident that NetAppliance's market position would not falter as a result of IBM's TIKI program. "(Besides), we have a competing entry-level product, F85, which can scale from 200 gigabytes to half terabyte," Chan added.

Meanwhile, EMC Asean & India director for Alliances & Partners Steve Goh said: "Trial periods might appear to be great in the beginning but the solutions must still solve the information management problems of a business--that's what it's all about! Businesses need to ask themselves, 'What if the trial doesn't work? How am I going to measure success?' If not, they lose time to market."

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