EMC, IBM Agree To Cooperate On Interoperability

The companies said they had agreed to a framework for exchanging programming interfaces, and to extend their cooperation serving customers who mix each other's servers, storage and software products.

Players in the data storage industry, facing pressure from cost-conscious customers who want to mix and match products from different vendors, have been making bilateral agreements to increase their products' compatibility. The industry is also working on standards that would make it easier for customers to mix products.

For the channel, the news means it will be easier for solution providers to work with both vendors, said Chuck Hollis, vice president of platform marketing at the EMC. "IBM and EMC have been vigorous competitors," he said. "We compete on our own merits, but at the end of the day we will cooperate to support customers who implement both [vendors' products.]

Roland Hagan, vice president of storage marketing at IBM, promised the agreement will help spur storage sales in the industry. "It show enable faster sales cycles and increased confidence in our products," he said.

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Kevin Reith, manager of strategic technology at Info Systems, a Wilmington, Del.-based EMC solution provider, praised the agreement. "I like seeing the big boys playing nice with each other," Reith said. "It's all for the common good."

Reith said that because of EMC's push to be a software vendor, the agreement will be more beneficial to EMC than to IBM. "One of EMC's Achilles heels is IBM connectivity, which is ironic, because EMC invented (third-party) IBM connectivity," he said. "With their software development experience, EMC will be the first of the two to take advantage of the agreement."

Products which take advantage of the newfound friendship will probably not be part of EMC's roadmap until first quarter of next year, according to EMC's Hollis.

The agreement between the two storage giants covers three areas.

The two have agreed on a framework to exchange programming interfaces for their disk arrays, specifically EMC's Symmetrix DMX arrays and IBM's Enterprise Storage System, also known as Shark.

While they will work with the industry-standard SMI-S (Storage Management Initiative Specification) as much as possible, they will also move beyond those specifications, said Hollis. This includes exchanging APIs for replication management and performance management, both of which are scheduled to be addressed in SMI-S in the future, but which the two companies decided cannot wait, he said.

The second area is a cooperative support agreement under which the two will increase joint support of each other's technology when both are implemented in a customer site. "Customers said they expect IBM and EMC, while competing vigorously in the market, will work together after the deal," Hollis said. "For instance, if a customer with AIX-based servers and EMC storage has a problem and calls us, we can contact IBM to escalate the issue."

In the third area, EMC will license interfaces from IBM's Shark array for use in its Symmetrix DMX arrays to make the DMX compatible with such IBM mainframe functions as Peer-to-Peer Remote Copy, Extended Remote Copy, FlashCopy, Multiple Allegiance, and Parallel Access Volumes, said IBM's Hagan.

Financial details of the licensing agreement were not disclosed, Hagan said. However, he said, IBM earned about $1 billion in licensing fees from over the last year from a variety of vendors.

The API exchange agreement is the latest in a number of similar agreements between several top storage vendors.

In September of last year, HP and Hitachi Data Systems signed an agreement to allow each company's storage management software to manage the other's arrays. A month earlier, HP and IBM signed a similar agreement. That July, EMC and HP signed an agreement extending a similar arrangement EMC signed earlier with Compaq.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.