It's a $10bn opportunity, apparently
IBM and Network Appliance (NetApp) are both introducing new gear this week aimed at driving high-end storage features into the midrange storage market.
Analysts say such products are an easier sell these days than getting companies to buy the most expensive storage systems.
Dianne McAdam, a partner at storage analysis firm Data Mobility Group, said: "Rather than buying the big, big arrays with budgets being tight, they are buying storage for a particular application. They are finding the midrange to be very price competitive."
The trend is further fueled by the fact that companies are introducing into midrange systems features like snapshotting and remote mirroring - two data protection features that were once found only in high-end systems.
In the past, McAdam said, companies were giving up key features when they bought midrange systems. Now such features are often included, though perhaps not to the same degree or in the same way they are implemented at the high end.
IBM plans this week to introduce the TotalStorage FastT 900, a product that takes aim at EMC's Clariion CX 600 product. The new gear offers more than twice the performance of IBM's existing model 700. The company's new model will be an addition to the lineup rather than a replacement.
Among other new features, IBM is adding "call home" technology that alerts Big Blue when the system has a problem. The company has included a similar feature on its high-end "Shark" line, but not in previous midrange systems.
Eoland Hagan, IBM vice president of storage marketing, said: "We really are bringing enterprise-class attributes to the midrange." The FastT 900 line will start at $75,000 (£47,000) and be available from 14 March.
Meanwhile, NetApp plans to launch a software upgrade that will allow its existing products to connect using the just-approved iSCSI standard. The iSCSI standard allows storage devices to be networked over existing computer networks. The Fibre Channel communications standard is faster but requires a separate network.
NetApp's initial goal, though, is not to replace Fibre Channel, but rather to offer a cheaper way for companies that still rely on direct-attached storage to move to a networked model.
"We see that opening up a $10bn (£6.3bn) opportunity," said Phil Williams, vice president of global alliances for NetApp.
Data Mobility Group's McAdam said NetApp's support for iSCSI is significant. "iSCSI has been a great idea that hasn't really gotten off the ground," she said. "When you have somebody like NetApp that is so well known in the NAS (Network-Attached Storage) market they also bring a lot of credibility."
NetApp is also introducing a higher-capacity version of its NearStore device, which allows companies to back up their storage with less downtime. The new devices can hold 24 terabytes, twice as much as the current NearStore products.
The company is giving NearStore the ability to back up other companies' disks through software enhancements.
Meanwhile, IBM is announcing the next generation of its linear tape drive - the Linear Tape-Open Untrium 2 - which doubles the capacity and speed of its predecessor.
The single drive 3580 model is priced at $6,200 (£3,873) while the 3584 model tape library starts at $75,000 (£46,850). Both are available now, IBM said.