The Bumpy Road to Open Storage Management

In late October, IBM announced the creation of Aperi (Latin for "to open"), an open-source consortium formed to work on the development of a common storage software-management platform. Aperi's initial membership of IBM, Cisco Systems, Brocade, CA, Fujitsu, McDATA, Network Appliance, and Engenio Information Technologies shows some serious interest in the development of this initiative. Which isn't surprising, considering that the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) has already formulated the Storage Management Initiative Specification, an open standard that IBM claims that Aperi will use, and that all the announced Aperi members are also SNIA members.

Aperi's stated goal is to remove the technology barriers that have fragmented the development of storage-management products, so that users can implement management solutions that cross vendor product lines seamlessly. Ideally, an open-source solution would let a customer choose its management application and still fully manage all its selected storage systems, regardless of the vendor that supplied the hardware and software combination for those systems.

Aperi member companies will donate some of their intellectual property related to information storage management to get the project up and running. IBM successfully used a similar process to start the Eclipse Foundation, an open-source initiative aimed at providing a universal toolset for developers.

This all sounds great, but any storage administrator worthy of the name has probably already noticed a couple of serious omissions from the Aperi announcement: HP and EMC. IBM spokespeople have been quoted as saying that discussions have been held with both vendors but that they declined to join at this time. Shortly after the Aperi announcement, an EMC statement declared that "we were not notified or given the opportunity to engage in this proposed initiative prior to IBM already briefing the media," as reported by Information Storage & Security Journal. EMC also claimed that the formation of Aperi wasn't discussed with the SNIA membership in general.

To add a little more fuel to the fire, HP, which had been mum on the Aperi announcement, followed up 1 week later by announcing its HP Storage Essentials 5.0 storage resource-management product, an open-standards-based technology derived primarily from HP's acquisition of software vendor AppIQ, which was finalized in late October.

The open-standards approach differs from the open-source approach in that the Storage Essentials product uses open standards such as Distributed Management Task Force-Common Information Model (DMTF-CIM), Systems Management Interface-2 (SMI-2), and J2EE, so that any compatible product can fit in, instead of the open-source approach in which vendors can use common code to develop products. The HP goal is to be able to manage any storage device from its console, as Storage Essentials integrates directly with HP Systems Insight Manager, the backbone component for HP's infrastructure management model.

It would seem that EMC's statement about Asperi and HP's release of a new product that competes directly with the Asperi concept indicate that any industrywide management platform attempt will have a bumpy ride, at least in the near term. Whether the top providers of storage resources to corporations can ever sit down at the same table and play well together remains to be seen, but for the nonce, storage administrators shouldn't hope for too much

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