October 25, 2005 7:54 AM PDT

IBM, Cisco form open-source storage group

More than a half-dozen tech titans, including IBM, Cisco Systems and Network Appliance, announced plans Tuesday to form an organization to develop open-source storage management software.

The group, dubbed Aperi, also will include Brocade Communication Systems, Computer Associates International, Engenio Information Technologies, Fujitsu, McData and Sun Microsystems.

"Today's news is significant," said Jim Stallings, IBM vice president of intellectual property and standards. "This is a breakthrough on how traditional storage is done...we're building it on an open-source platform."

IBM will donate a portion of its storage management technology to Aperi; other organization members have the option to do the same. The open-source storage code will be designed to remove the barriers that occur when running computers that have different platforms, Stallings said.

Aperi's formation, however, may also lead to confusion in the marketplace, given that Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) efforts are already under way to create a standard for storage management software. Last fall, SNIA began final testing of its Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S) for version 1.1. The next step is submitting the specification to a standards body for approval.

"Ultimately, there has to be one open standard. Not a couple of them."
--analyst Steve Berg, Punk, Ziegel & Co.

IBM, Cisco, Network Appliance, Computer Associates and Brocade are also members of SNIA, but did not inform the organizational body until several weeks ago that it was forming Aperi. Discussions to form Aperi have been going on in earnest for the past several months. The group has hoped to hold technical discussions in the coming weeks and months to develop its first reference base for code. Aperi expects to release its open-source storage code sometime next year.

"We have all worked together in the past," said Ray Dunn, vice chairman of SNIA. "And that is what SNIA is about. It's a place where things can get sorted out."

Several large storage specialists, meanwhile, have not joined the Aperi group, including EMC, Symantec and Hewlett-Packard. But Stallings noted that Aperi is open to all interested parties and no final decision has been made on what form it should take and whether it may be ultimately folded into SNIA.

SNIA is an organization that has largely steered away from code implementations and has concentrated on creating standards, one Aperi member said.

"Aperi's code release could sit on top of what SNIA has already done," Stallings said.

Although Aperi's focus will not be much different from SNIA's version 1.1 in addressing storage management of devices, its open-source software will be designed to take advantage of SNIA's version 1.1 and establish it as a storage management platform, said another Aperi member.

"This will further enhance SNIA and be a win-win for both of us," said Sam Greenblatt, a Computer Associates senior vice president and previous chief architect of the company's Linux Technology Group.

In related news, IBM announced the launch of its WebSphere Application Server Community Edition on Tuesday. The server software is designed to allow midsize businesses to easily access open-source-based technologies.

One analyst noted that Aperi's relationship to SNIA is similar to EMC's position years ago.

"EMC started out with what they said was an open-standard common-interface model. They said they had their own open standard and had the wherewithal to do it themselves, instead of join SNIA," recalled Steve Berg, an analyst with Punk, Ziegel & Co. "But ultimately, they joined the association. They found they needed to have everyone else on board and have a critical mass to show their vision was right."

Berg predicted that Aperi will ultimately need to join the SNIA, as well, despite having some heavy hitters on board.

"Ultimately, there has to be one open standard. Not a couple of them," Berg said.

 

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