HP, IBM Exchange Storage APIs While Awaiting Interoperability Standards


Follows similar agreements with various vendors who say clients can't wait


Hewlett-Packard and IBM on Tuesday took a step further on the road toward storage interoperability by expanding an existing API agreement to include new storage products.

As a result of the agreement, IBM will license the API for its Shark storage array to HP, giving that company the ability to manage the array via its OpenView storage management software.

In return, IBM will be able to integrate APIs from HP's EVA and EMA arrays into its Tivoli Storage Manager application.

"We believe that for our customers this will result in a much greater degree of compatibility and interoperability of our storage products, both hardware and software, leading to greater degrees of flexibility, increased operations efficiencies and, of course, lower total cost of ownership," said Mark Sorenson, vice president of HP's Storage Software Division.

Both vendors agree that the API cross-licensing agreement is only an interim step before the storage industry as a whole adopts such industry standards as Common Information Model (CIM) and Bluefin, expected to be finalized this fall by the Storage Networking Industry Association.

"We believe that a technology exchange of the APIs and CLIs (command line interfaces) are a very useful tactical step that will provide us a solution today and actually will help accelerate the development of the Bluefin/CIM initiatives," Sorenson said.

Brian Truskowski, CTO for IBM's Storage Systems Group, said while the agreement covers some of the two vendors' most popular lines, it could be extended to other products in the future.

"Obviously, our ultimate goal is to manage the entire portfolio through standards," Truskowski said. "However, these two companies are very large storage vendors today that have to solve customer problems today. . . . If we find that the deployment of standards isn't as quickly as we need, then we'll simply extend the agreement to bring in more products and technologies as needed."

Tuesday's agreement extends one signed between IBM and the legacy Compaq in September 2000, under which the two vendors agreed to resell each others' storage arrays and cooperate on interoperability. The first part of that agreement quietly faded away a year later without either vendor selling one of its partner's arrays, company executives said.

Last November, Compaq and EMC signed a similar agreement with their APIs, an agreement reaffirmed when it was extended to cover EMC and the new HP last month. Meanwhile, IBM and Hitachi Data Systems signed a similar agreement in June 2001.

Sorenson said the latest agreement is similar with agreements signed with EMC in that the vendors are working toward interoperability. However, the big difference is that IBM, HP and even Sun Microsystems are working toward industry standards such as CIM and Bluefin, while EMC is working toward what he termed its "proprietary" WideSky initiative.

"Frankly, I think this announcement today is potentially another nail in the WideSky coffin," Sorenson said. "More and more vendors are supporting open industry standards such as CIM and Bluefin. EMC continues to promote WideSky middleware as a method for interoperability."

Don Swatik, vice president of alliances and information sciences at EMC, said his company believes in following the coming standards as well. However, he said, there are several paths toward interoperabilities, including standards, API exchanges and middleware such as WideSky, and in this EMC is no different from the other vendors.

IBM, HP, and Hitachi have all signed API agreements, Swatik said. Meanwhile, HP is developing OpenView and IBM StorageTank as middleware. "The difference is, we already have WideSky," he said. "We are seeing other companies visibly following the path we created last October [with our WideSky initiative. They don't like it because we were first, and they have to follow."

API agreements like the one signed by IBM and HP are important to the channel because it allows solution providers a way to implement manageable SANs, said Sorenson. "Our OpenView storage manager will be able to manage any array, regardless of who the vendor is," he said. "This will make it easier to build a SAN and manage it."

Solution providers said only good can come from such agreements.

"Any time we can create a more heterogeneous environment and integrate multiple vendors' products in a user site, that is a good thing," said Dave Goldsmith, president of Sapphire Systems, a Roseville, Ill.-based solution provider.

Goldsmith said customers really do not care about the brand name of their storage devices, unlike before when storage was directly attached to the server and so brand name was more important. "Today, we are selling a lot of HP EVA [arrays into non-HP environments," he said. "As you move into SANs, storage stands on its own."

Interoperability is important for the industry and for customers in that it means they can spend less money on storage devices and more on managing the data stored on them, said Don McDowell, vice president of server solutions at Forsythe Solutions Group, a Skokie, Ill.-based solution provider.

Despite the fact the API agreements are not following an industrywide standard, the lay the groundwork for working toward them, McDowell said. "It's a very positive direction for the storage industry," he said. "Then, as standards get adopted, it's better for everyone. Some [vendors may be a little slower. But SNIA is gaining ground in its drive toward standards."