Decide customers can't wait for industry standards
EMC and Hewlett-Packard Wednesday unveiled an agreement under which the two will cross-license certain storage-system APIs.
By exchanging APIs, both vendors will be able to more easily develop storage management applications capable of managing the other's storage systems.
The agreement helps the two companies get a jump on the industrywide initiative to develop standards for multivendor SAN interoperability under the Bluefin initiative unveiled in May.
Signed earlier this month, the agreement is an extension of a similar API cross-licensing agreement signed last year between EMC and Compaq, before it was acquired by HP.
The two vendors will also jointly develop processes for working behind the scenes to take care of technical support issues related to the cross-API implementations.
The agreement is good for the channel, said Pat Edwards, vice president of sales at Alliance Technology Group, a Hanover, Md.-based solution provider that works with both vendors.
"Usually, the automatic reaction is, 'Oh, it's just EMC being bullheaded,' " said Edwards. "But they need to do something to revitalize their business. This is a good idea. I like it when manufacturers become aggressive in [the storage environment. It helps us be aggressive as well and push ourselves into the market. If EMC is successful, we ride their coattails. If not, we can blame them. They are taking the risk."
The agreement allows each company's storage products to control and manage the other's products from a single user interface, said Mark Sorenson, vice president of storage software solutions for HP's Network Storage Solutions Group.
The need for the agreement stems from a long-standing desire on the part of corporate customers to manage all storage from a single console, even while waiting for interoperability standards to mature, Sorenson said.
It will help accelerate the transition from direct-attached storage to heterogeneous networked storage environments, said Don Swatik, EMC's vice president of alliances and information sciences.
Both companies said customers couldn't be asked to wait until industrywide standards like Bluefin are approved. They cited analyst statistics that give the two vendors a combined 70-plus percent revenue share of the networked external RAID market, and more than 50 percent of the external RAID market in 2001.
Both companies said they remain committed to Bluefin, an industrywide SAN management specification that can identify, classify, monitor and control physical and logical resources across the enterprise using a common transport for communication being developed under the Storage Networking Industry Association.
Bluefin employs technology from the Web-Based Enterprise Management (WBEM) and Common Information Model (CIM) initiatives. WBEM is a set of tools designed to unify enterprise computing management, while CIM provides a conceptual view of physical and logical system components.
HP and EMC co-chair the CIM initiatives, Swatik said.
"In 12 months, CIM will not do all that [the HP/EMC API swap will do," said Swatik. "CIM will allow basic monitoring, but will not have all the functionality. Also, each vendor will have its own dialect of CIM. To assume each vendor will implement CIM the same is not going to happen. It's not going to be ubiquitous across the board. and it will not support all legacy equipment."
EMC is not known for its patience. Several years ago, instead of waiting for industrywide standards to ensure interoperability between Fibre Channel devices from multiple vendors, it circumvented the question by signing interoperability agreements with several SAN component vendors under its Fibre Channel Alliance initiative and, in the process, caused a high-profile argument within the storage industry.
Under the terms of the agreement, EMC is licensing APIs to support discovery and control functions of its Symmetrix and Clariion arrays, while HP is licensing APIs to support discovery and control functions of the HP StorageWorks Virtual Array (VA) systems and the HP StorageWorks XP systems.
The previous agreement signed between EMC and Compaq included API support of Compaq's--and now HP's--StorageWorks Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA) and Modular Array (MA) systems.
As a result of the new agreement, HP storage management software would have access to all of EMC's Symmetrix and Clariion APIs. These include APIs of Open SAN Manager, Enterprise Volume Manager, Network View, Data Replication Manager, SecurePath, EMC Element Manager, OpenView Storage Area Manager, Utility Data Center Utility Controller, Instant Support Enterprise Edition and SureStore SAN Master.
EMC's Control Center family of applications gets access to HP's APIs. These include APIs of ECC SAN Manager, StorageScope and Enterprise Replication Manager, as well as its PowerPath, WideSky Middleware and Remote Support Concentrator-Extended.
Both vendors were careful to point out that the agreement does not extend to arrays from Hitachi Data Systems, which form the hardware basis of HP's XP arrays. Instead, HP develops its own firmware for the XP, which is included in the agreement, said Sorenson. "Hitachi was not involved in the agreement," he said. "The software we struck a deal with was intellectual property designed by HP. No Hitachi approval was needed. No blessing was needed."
Both companies said that because of the huge market share the two vendors control, pressure would grow for other vendors, such as IBM and Hitachi Data Systems, to sign similar agreements with them and each other.
Such agreements, should they happen, will be bilateral, said Sorenson. For instance, if a third vendor should sign an API cross-licensing deal with HP, that deal would not include the APIs that HP licensed from EMC. In such a case, he said, the third vendor would have to sign a separate agreement with EMC in order to use the EMC APIs.