EMC opening up a bit

EMC opening up a bit

There are some encouraging signs that EMC is playing nice with others. Although the vendor has rightly gotten a reputation for eschewing some independent initiatives in favor of its own products and services, there are signs that this attitude may be changing.

According to stories published a few weeks ago, an EMC exec announced that the vendor is dropping its WideSky storage-management initiative in favor of the Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S), originally called "Bluefin." SMI-S is a standard under the auspices of the Storage Networking Industry Association, and it's expected to be finalized by year-end. Just about every vendor in the storage universe has said it will use this spec - IBM, Hitachi Data Systems, Hewlett-Packard and many others. EMC was pretty much the last major holdout on this score.

You may remember that WideSky was launched with great fanfare in October 2001, and was touted by the company as the industry's "first storage-management middleware." Others saw it as an attempt by EMC to create its own de facto standard and essentially thumb its nose at the standards community. (EMC might reply that the standards process takes a very long time and that customers need solutions ASAP. Both sides would have a point.)

The idea was to help customers manage their multi-vendor environments by embedding features and functions, via the WideSky middleware, into EMC hardware and software. At announcement time, WideSky was part of the EMC ControlCenter storage-management suite, and supported storage devices, fabrics and operating systems from multiple suppliers.

WideSky and SMI-S are both based on the Common Information Model, or CIM, which helps create common models to describe storage hardware and software. The notion behind CIM, and SMI-S, is for vendors to write specific interfaces from their products to the standard.

Which leads to why EMC is finally adopting the SMI-S standard - it lets the vendor off the hook in several ways. First, EMC doesn't have to worry about writing as many interfaces. (The third-party software community wasn't exactly flocking to WideSky.) Second, it can use the coming standard to help assuage customers' concerns that it is indeed playing nice with others, and that it supports multi-vendor storage management efforts.

And, finally, EMC can defer its multivendor support efforts until the standard is cooked - and it's already doing just that. In the recent announcement of its VisualSRM and VisualSAN software meant for small and medium-sized enterprises, EMC said these new products currently support EMC's Clariion and will support "additional mid-tier storage platforms upon the finalization of the … SMI-S" standard.

Long live WideSky; may it rest in peace.

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