Storage Software Madness

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This week it was StorageNetworks. Before them, it was Hitachi Data Systems and the new Hewlett-Packard. And before them, it was IBM, Veritas Software, EMC and Computer Associates.

So many vendors in the last few weeks have stepped forward with their plans and goals for storage software, an area that is garnering more attention than the fact that Hitachi has come out with a new storage subsystem that scales up to 75 Tbytes with five frames and up to 4,000 logical connections to servers and disk arrays.

The size of disk drives. The capacity and throughput levels in disk arrays. Speeds and feeds once reigned supreme in storage. Now it's about who has the best software to manage all that hardware. It makes sense. Corporations have tightened the screws on IT spending. Administrators and managers now need better accounting methods to determine how efficiently they are using all that storage they have accumulated.

Moreover, customers are forcing storage vendors to play nice. At least, in some instances. Just last week, Mark Lewis, former general manager of Compaq's storage enterprise group and now head of worldwide marketing and solutions at HP, said Compaq exchanged APIs with EMC only because customers asked them to do it.

"We are not friends," says Lewis.

According to research firm Gartner, EMC is number one in the overall storage management space, capturing 30.4 percent of the market. Next in line is Veritas with 19.8 percent of the market, followed by IBM with 14.2 percent and Computer Associates with 4.1 percent.

If you take out the numbers for array-based software, the figures change. Veritas takes the lead with 30 percent of the overall market, while IBM comes in second with 17.7 percent, followed by EMC with 11.9 percent and Computer Associates with 6.2 percent.

If and how these figures will change in the months to come is best left to analysts. But here is a recap of some of these vendors' software strategies. Generally, most vendors are voicing support forthe CIM (Command Information Model) standard still being developed by the Storage Network Industry Association (SNIA). But at the same time, many are developing their own "open standards" software in hopes of capturing market share so their software becomes the de facto standard:

  • Months ago, EMC laid out its AutoIS initiative for an open software platform. At the heart of it is WideSky, a middleware piece that will serve as the main translator between applications and the APIs of all the hardware and software products that make up customers' consolidated storage systems. EMC negotiated an API agreement with Compaq, but still has to woo Hitachi, IBM and Sun Microsystems. Hitachi, however, reportedly cut off negotiations when EMC sued the company over patent infringement.

  • StorageNetworks, the pioneer of selling storage as a utility, is now making a big push to sell the proprietary software it developed in-house to once manage all its customers' heterogeneous systems. The operating system, called STORos Version 5.0, and the application, Storage Manager Version 5.0, is scheduled for general release in about three weeks.

  • Hitachi calls its open standard software initiative TrueNorth. The centerpiece is its HiCommand Management framework, which is supposed to deliver policy-based, automated storage management with software developed by Hitachi works with partners' products. Hitachi is putting all of its backing on CIM, which currently is being developed by the standards body SNIA. "Everything we do will be developed around CIM," says Phil Townsend, Hitachi's senior director of global marketing.

  • IBM has been talking about developing its StorageTank product. For a while it was unclear what techniques StorageTank would use to manage heterogeneous systems. But recently, Brian Truskowski, IBM's chief technology officer for the storage systems group, described it as a SAN file system to simplify backup and share data among different applications. StorageTank was supposed to be out by now, but its release date has been pushed to sometime in 2003. IBM says it also is backing CIM.

  • Now that the HP-Compaq merger is a done deal, the plans for Compaq's much-touted VersaStor is official: the virtualization product--which is in beta testing at Microsoft and is expected for release at the end of this year--will be the umbrella technology for storage management software. Compaq has spent months developing this as an out-of-band technology, one that is more difficult to design but holds fewer latency issues because it should not directly interfere with the network flow.

  • Last, but not least, Veritas made a blowout impression on analysts at their Visions 2002 event in Dallas in April. The eighth largest software company in the world is going to capitalize on its current products like the Veritas Volume Manager and Backup Exec. It's also building its Adaptive Software Architecture, comprised of products with plug-ins for storage technologies such as virtualization, high-availability for applications and active Storage Resource Management for capacity allocation and data replications. This new architecture will be oiled by Veritas' new industrywide partner programs, called Veritas Powered and Veritas Enabled. Like StorageNetworks, Veritas already has most of the APIs from its past relationships with the hardware and software vendors.

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