How is the IBM/NetApp deal working out? I hear it's going nowhere. -- B.P., San Jose.

Great question -- even if it is from a flagrant Network Appliance Inc. competitor.

The word in the street since the announcement last spring by IBM that it would be reselling a portion of NetApp's product line has been at best hushed and at worst that it's a disaster. I heard that there were channel conflicts all over the place and that field compensation hadn't been worked out to a point where the two could work together. Both of those issues were true - but not anymore.

I can't tell you the details (somehow I think the companies will know it came from me, being how my picture is on top of this and all), but I can tell you some truths.

IBM has trained thousands of people globally on the product line.

NetApp's sales folks now have a compensation structure that makes them want to help IBM.

IBM and NetApp have jointly developed hundreds of account action plans outlining who is going to do what and when - at really big accounts.

IBM is going to brand the entire line of NetApp stuff -- not just a few pieces as originally thought.

IBM sales folks who I have personally spoken to are all fired up - since they have been bested in the NAS space for a long, long time by their former enemy now turned friend. Now they have the best selling NAS box in their bag.

NetApp is all fired up because the two places they have not been truly successful has been in the core data centers of the gigantic companies - and in the lower-end small and midsize business and remote office/home office sectors. IBM happens to be a pretty good channel into both of those markets (note: extreme sarcasm).

So, expect to start seeing NetApp put up even more impressive numbers than usual. Will this love fest work forever? That remains to be seen. For right now, the companies share a common enemy in EMC Corp. and together are creating a formidable force that fights well at every level. My concern was that IBM wouldn't put any real wood behind the proverbial arrow, but as of today, I can honestly say that isn't the case. The next two quarters will be very telling, as they have each found a new girlfriend and are moving past the "I could talk to you all night, and wow, we really connect" stage. I'll be watching to see whether this relationship becomes one that blossoms into long-term love, or they break up because one hates the way the other brushes its teeth or refuses to close the bathroom door. Not that I know what that's like, of course.

Prior to founding Enterprise Strategy Group Inc., where he is senior analyst, Steve Duplessie founded and was CEO of Invincible Technologies Corp., a manufacturer of fault-tolerant network-attached storage systems. He has also held positions at Clearpoint Research Corp. and EMC.