EMC Scores HP Wins

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If anyone was wondering whether EMC was still a big league storage player, just check out the hits they scored in recent weeks--both of which involve the new Hewlett-Packard.

First off, the Hopkinton, Mass.-based company hired away Mark Lewis, the former general manager and vice president of Compaq Computer's Enterprise Storage Group. Lewis was edged out of the top storage post by his former boss, Howard Elias, when Compaq was merged with Hewlett-Packard. Instead, the new HP anointed Lewis the head of worldwide marketing--a job that obviously did not excite him too much since he defected to EMC as its new chief technology officer.

Secondly, EMC and HP last month signed a cross-license agreement that extended an API deal originally inked with Compaq months ago. That means EMC and HP will exchange application programming interfaces so they can manage each other's storage systems through their own storage management applications. By signing this pact with HP, EMC executives say they hope to use this as leverage to persuade holdouts like Hitachi Data Systems and IBM to give EMC their APIs.

All of this is probably insider baseball to the larger storage audience that just want their storage systems to work fine on a day-to-day level. But it's worth trying to understand because, at the very least, it gives a picture of how vendors operate.

Take the Mark Lewis hire. Sources say the 40-year-old was the main strategist behind Compaq's storage software vision in the last couple of years. He understood early on that software was going to play a greater importance to hardware. He apparently persuaded Compaq CEO Mike Capellas to create a separate business unit called SANworks at Compaq. Sources say he was great with customers, and I can confirm he was good with reporters. He has the ability to elegantly explain what often is tedious and complicated specifics of technology.

It's no wonder that EMC executives were doing "cartwheels" when they snatched him away from HP. And it's safe to say former Compaq executives (now HP executives) were a bit dismayed. When I asked Mark Sorenson, vice president of storage software solutions at HP's Network Storage Solutions Group, what were his thoughts, he declined to answer: "I'd like to pass on that question."

But Sorenson did offer some comments about the API agreement. Yes, he says, it is an extension of the Compaq-EMC deal. But this now allows HP's OpenView Storage Area Manager suite to monitor and manage EMC's Symmetrix and Clariion subsystems. In turn, EMC's software now can monitor and manage the HP StorageWorks Enterprise Virtual array and the Surestore XP subsystem family, which HP resells via an original equipment manufacturer deal with Hitachi Data Systems.

But there are some interesting points to this agreement: EMC will not get access to the subsystems but only the HP-designed software that resides on the arrays. It's been reported that Hitachi Data Systems called off API negotiations around the time EMC filed a patent-infringement lawsuit against HDS's parent company, Japan's Hitachi, in both the U.S. International Trade Commission and the U.S. District Court in Worcester, Mass.

Moreover, Sorenson says that HP will not support EMC's WideSky middleware strategy--a core piece to EMC's AutoIS management software initiative. In the past, Compaq executives--including Lewis--had been very vocal in calling the WideSky middleware a proprietary scheme that EMC is using to corner the emerging storage management software market. The way Sorenson describes it, EMC can use the APIs to develop WideSky but "no major storage vendors...have signed up and come on board to support WideSky or license it."

Is HP giving tacit approval to WideSky by exchanging APIs with EMC? "We don't think so," explains Sorenson. "You can look at our contract. The word 'WideSky' is not mentioned in there."

No matter, say EMC executives. WideSky is an attempt to lead to charge toward open standards. Don Swatik, EMC's vice president of alliances and information sciences, has been just as vocal in saying that EMC can reverse engineer any product from a competitor who is not willing to cooperate in an API exchange. WideSky will happen.

"This is not an 'if' question, it is a 'when' question," Swatik says.

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