Vendors maintain uneasy standards alliance

Hitachi Ltd. and Hewlett-Packard Co. in September extended a partnership to ensure that their respective storage-management software products will interoperate with each other’s hardware products.

Already close partners in the storage space, HP and Hitachi will swap software application programming interfaces (APIs), which should make it easier for users to manage the companies’ hardware, they said.

HP has struck similar pacts with IBM Corp. and EMC Corp. to create better ties between the vendors’ storage management software and their competing hardware.

HP will now be able to manage Hitachi’s Freedom Storage Lightning 9900 and 9900 V Series and Thunder 9200 Series storage systems with its OpenView software. Likewise, Hitachi, based in Tokyo, will use its HiCommand Management software to link with HP’s StorageWorks XP, StorageWorks Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA) and StorageWorks Enterprise Modular Array (EMA) storage systems.

With this extension of the partnership, Hitachi can now manage some of the systems HP brought into its portfolio following the acquisition of Compaq Computer Corp. earlier this year.

The deal between the two vendors should come as no surprise, since HP already resells Hitachi’s high-end storage systems.

HP, Hitachi, EMC, IBM and other vendors have joined in the Storage Networking Industry Association’s effort – dubbed the Storage Management Initiative – to create a shared management interface for systems in a storage area network (SAN).

However, while working to push standards in the industry to allow competing vendors’ products to work with each other, HP and EMC remain fierce rivals in the market for data storage systems and software. Theirs is not an easy alliance.

This fall, Hewlett-Packard Co. filed a patent infringement lawsuit against EMC Corp., charging that its competitor uses HP’s technology in both storage hardware and software products. EMC responded with a patent infringement suit of its own.

HP claimed that EMC’s Symmetrix and Clariion storage systems and its TimeFinder software infringe on seven patents held by HP. This action follows similar suits filed earlier this year by EMC and Hitachi Ltd. against each other. HP resells some of Hitachi’s high-end storage systems and cited its relationship with the company as one reason for filing the lawsuit, according to a statement.

HP claims EMC has violated patents for transferring data between different storage media, reducing the number of reads and writes in a RAID (redundant array of independent disks) configuration, linking host computers via a switching network to storage systems, handling disk failures in a RAID configuration, methods for presenting logical units to host computers and technology used between storage systems and power supplies.

EMC’s countersuit alleges that HP has infringed on six EMC patents, said EMC spokesperson Ann Pace. The patents relate to EMC’s TimeFinder and SRDF (Symmetrix Remote Data Facility) software for mirroring data on to other storage systems, and also to data migration and the storage of mainframe data, EMC said.

– With files from Laura Rohde, IDG News Service