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The storage industry's Wild Wild West

The storage industry's Wild Wild West

There's trouble in Standardsville, pardner, and it looks like there's a battle a-brewin'. So strap on yer six-shooters, mosey on down to the corral and saddle up them broncs. We got some hard ridin' to do. The Aperi gang may be comin' to town and some of the townsfolk are up in arms.

Alternatively, of course, you can just get yourself a good supply of chips and beer, find a comfy chair, and watch what's going on from the sidelines. After all, how many of you have even heard of Aperi?

No, this is not the name of the latest yuppie cocktail. It's the name for an open source software project that looks to offer an open, extensible, standards-based storage management framework over what it claims will be a simplified infrastructure.

IBM, McData and other vendors want to contribute lots of code (IBM alone is offering over 1,000,000 lines), which they will offer through the open source community's Eclipse Foundation. Eclipse describes itself as "an open source community whose projects are focused on providing an extensible development platform and application frameworks for building software."

Sounds simple, right, giving away free code to an established and well-regarded representative of the open source community? So why the uproar (and yes, there was one among the vendors, even if you didn't hear about it)?

First let's look at who the players are. Next time, we'll see what all the excitement is about.

The pro-Aperi gang at present consists of such known desperados as Brocade, Cisco, CA, Engenio, Fujitsu, IBM, McData, Network Appliance and Novell. On the other side, we find EMC, Hitachi, HP, Sun and Symantec. Which side represents the Clantons and which side law and order I'll leave for another time, but as events begin to unfold it might a least be useful to have a scorecard. So here is yours.

The pro-Aperi gang has some interesting relationships within it, and IBM (which has relationships with literally thousands of allies and competitors alike) is at the center of most. One of IBM's oldest business allies is Engenio (going back to the days when it was NCR Microelectronics and provided IBM with SSA and other basic storage technologies - lately it has built the FastT/DS400 line); IBM resells the NetApp line of NAS products. In many senses, these relationships provide a model for building effective business and technology alliances.

Also with an IBM linkage are Brocade and Cisco, which provide switching products often seen with IBM's distributed systems, and McData, which historically has done a good business making switches for mainframe ESCON and FICON environments.

CA, Fujitsu and Novell also align with this group, but have no similar internal linkages of which I am aware.

The anti-Aperi gang is no slouch either, consisting as it does of EMC, Hitachi, HP, Sun, and Symantec. Hitachi, HP and Sun share several levels of commonality: they all use the SMI-S code base developed by AppIQ (now owned by HP, but held as a sort of "common trust"), and Hitachi provides HP and Sun with their high-end storage devices. EMC shares none of this, but is seemingly in a constant state of antipathy with both IBM and NetApp. Symantec tries to get along with everybody, but who knows what is really going on there these days?

The common thread running through all the players is that each is a card-carrying Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) member, and each professes undying loyalty to the concepts of motherhood, fair play and open standards.

Why can't they all just get along? More on that next time.


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