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November 6, 2005

Aperi is SMI-S kicker, IBM admits

One of IBM Corp's primary motives for establishing the Aperi open source storage software initiative is to make the industry move faster with the SMI-S storage software standard, the company made clear yesterday.

By CBR Staff Writer

It is very likely to be the major motive. While IBM cannot afford the political consequences of declaring outright that SMI-S development is moving too slowly, statements the company made yesterday implied exactly that.

Launched around three years ago, SMI-S was hoped to unshackle customers from a technology lock-in, by allowing storage management software to handle cross-vendor hardware. In the process that would also allow vendors much easier access to each others’ customers bases.

The standard is being developed by the Storage Industry Networking Association, and has been universally supported in the storage industry. But even SNIA admits that SMI-S is still only evolving.

According to IBM, SMI-S simply does not cover enough storage management functions to allow meaningful cross-vendor or heterogeneous support by storage management tools.

SMI-S helps you get there, but not all the way. That’s not to say that SMI-S has not done a great job, but it is to say that we want to accelerate it, said Jamie Gruener, IBM Tivoli marketing manager.

Aperi was unveiled by IBM last month, and is an initiative designed to create a library of open source storage management software components. The group comprises IBM and eight other vendors that are all allies and partners of IBM, namely Network Appliance Inc, Cisco Systems Inc, Computer Associates Inc, Brocade Communications Systems Inc, Engenio Information Technologies Inc, Fujitsu Ltd, McData Cor, and Sun Microsystems Inc, now the owner of Storage Technology Corp.

Among the most obvious industry names missing from that list are EMC Corp, Symantec Corp — now the owner of Veritas and Hewlett-Packard Co. EMC and Symantec between them own more than half of the storage software market.

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EMC has not yet declared its position with respect to Aperi. But Symantec and HP have, said in very clear terms that they will not join Aperi as the group currently stands, because they believe that Aperi will rival SMI-S, and that any standards development should be done by SNIA.

IBM admitted that Aperi will need to create specifications for storage software. If Aperi does write standards and specifications, they will be extensions to SMI-S, Gruener said.

Asked why the Aperi effort was not launched from within SNIA, Gruener said: What this is about is very different to SNIA. SNIA does not develop code that will be a platform for accelerating SMI-S.

One analyst who did not want to be named said that some of IBM’s larger rivals have more than enough presence in SNIA to block any initiatives that IBM might have attempted from within the trade organization. SNIA officials declined to comment on any aspect of this story.

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