Opinion: Outlook proprietary

Storage managers cried out for interoperability, and behold, the storage management software platform was born! The concept of storage management heterogeneity is gaining traction in the vendor community courtesy of companies such as EMC Corp., TrueSAN Networks Inc., and Sun Microsystems Inc.. But some unfinished business remains that threatens to trap you in more dark proprietary corners.

If you survey the current crop of storage management software platforms, it becomes clear that the unfinished business is real commitment to standards, but more on that in a moment.

First up is AutoIS, EMC’s management effort, which includes a set of middleware applications called Widesky that’s designed to manage both EMC and competing storage hardware. Theoretically free from platform bias, Widesky supports an impressive list of operating systems and storage hardware, although Fujitsu Ltd. is curiously not included, and you can only manage IBM Corp. and StorageTek Corp. tape drives.

Next, TrueSAN recently revealed it had celestial inspiration launching Cloudbreak, arguably one of the first “storage operating systems” to tie together storage virtualization, network management, device management, and resource management in one platform.

Then there’s Sun Microsystems, which is trying to push its StorEdge suite, part of the Storage ONE (Open Net Environment) architecture, as a solution for managing multiplatform storage environments. The trouble is, by Sun’s own admission, these solutions are optimized for the Solaris platform and servers.

The fundamental technical problem confronting all three is not insignificant. In order for an application to access data on the SAN (storage area network), it must cross several software and hardware layers, each from a different vendor with its own proprietary and generally uncooperative management interface. Consequently, changing how data is accessed or how the storage network performs normally requires configuring each layer separately — more than an annoyance for vendors trying to automate storage management.

So while single-vendor solutions such as EMC’s Symmetrix, Xiotech Corp.’s Magnitude, and Compaq Computer Corp.’s StorageWorks offer a good set of proprietary storage management solutions, crossing vendor borders — as WideSky, Cloudbreak, and Storage ONE attempt to do — means entering uncharted territory. Without open standards governing the interoperability of the various hardware and software layers in SANs, even multiplatform storage management solutions remain essentially proprietary.

In other words, a lack of connectivity standards continues to leave vendors free to implement overlapping and mostly self-centred solutions. It’s time we saw a real multivendor initiative that does not attempt to sell one vendor’s proprietary dream.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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