Vendors merge to open source storage

IBM Corp. has spearheaded a consortium of storage industry players to form an open source storage community, which the company described as a “major milestone” for the storage market.

But the list of members is missing the top three vendors in the storage space: EMC Corp., Symantec (formerly Veritas) and Hewlett Packard (HP).

Dubbed Aperi, the new open source storage community has nine member-companies, namely, IBM, Brocade Communications Systems, Cisco Systems, Computer Associates International, Engenio Information Technologies, Fujitsu Limited, McData Corp., Network Appliance and Sun Microsystems.

Aperi aims to collectively use codes that will be contributed by its members to establish a reference base for building a common storage management platform, according to Jim Stallings, vice-president for intellectual property and standards at Armonk, NY-based IBM Corp.

“Aperi…will be a new community that will build on an open source platform that customers can use to manage their storage environment,” Stallings said at a press teleconference yesterday. IBM plans to donate to Aperi part of its storage management software portfolio.

Stallings said other storage industry players have been approached to join the group, including EMC and HP, but the companies have either declined or delayed participation in Aperi.

In an interview with IT World Canada, Michael Gallant, director of public relations at Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC Corp. said EMC was only notified of the Aperi initiative hours before IBM publicly announced it. “We were given very minimal opportunity to even engage in the proposed initiative. It’s really hard to take a stance on a proposal when you haven’t been given any runway to evaluate it.”

Gallant stressed, however, that EMC is not shutting its doors on Aperi saying it is “taking a look” at the proposed initiative. “We have the highest regard for creating and maintaining these kinds of industry standards. We think they are very important.”

Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP, on the other hand, does not believe the IBM-led Aperi initiative will “deliver value to customers.”

HP has been supporting an open community initiative to establish a standard platform for storage management applications, said Frank Harbist, vice president and general manager of storage software, HP StorageWorks.

“We are actively involved in many standards bodies…to help improve storage interoperability, manageability and simplicity. While we welcome IBM’s efforts…we don’t understand why IBM has skipped over the necessary first step of defining a specification, and instead has moved directly to suggesting an implementation and a business model,” said Harbist.

He added the Aperi initiative “appears to be based on IBM’s own technology under the guise of open source.”

Symantec declined to comment, neither confirming nor denying whether the company had been approached to join the Aperi consortium.

IBM’s Stallings said the open source community for storage would help break down one of the remaining “pillars of proprietary technology,” stressing that customers have been seeking new ways to manage integrated information solutions.

He said data storage systems have been historically built through application programming interfaces, which served as “technical barriers separating vendor from vendor, hardware from software, and fabric from machinery.”

“These inefficiencies and layers of technology separation not only frustrated customers, but they also stymied progress for solution developers,” said Stallings.

Details of the open source collaboration – including determination of whether Aperi will be part of the existing Storage Networking Industry Association or will be a separate entity – are yet to be resolved, according to Stallings.

He said the next step would be to establish governance and formally organize the community and added that more companies are expected to join the consortium.

The group expects to release the open source storage software by 2006.

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