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Strange Fascination With Aperi

Ch-ch-ch-changes, as David Bowie once crooned, are a part of life. This column has run for the past two years on Storage Pipeline, now merged with Byte and Switch. Editor in Chief Terry Sweeney asked me to come along for the ride, and Terry's a pretty persuasive guy and a skilled editor, so I agreed. I would like to encourage my regular readers to make the transition with me and to be just as aggressive in your responses to my opinions here as you were at Storage Pipeline.

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Bowie's song maps extraordinarily well to the situation that exists in the world of distributed storage management today, especially given the news from IBM that it is founding an open source initiative called Aperi to fix the world of storage management. Such an idea holds enormous promise, and we are cautiously hopeful that IBM with its cadre of fellow travelers that includes most notably, Computer Associates, will make it happen.

To contextualize the importance of Aperi, first you need a bit of background on how we have arrived at the problems we confront today in storage management. In the song, Changes, Bowie bemoans that "running wild" took him down "a million dead-end streets," but ultimately failed to deliver a "sweet taste" of success. And so it is with contemporary storage management in distributed systems. Customers have long awaited an integrated solution for administering heterogenous storage gear and to make fewer workers more productive. We are still waiting.

There have been a lot of dead-end streets in storage management. First, customers were provided with "point" software tools for managing discrete products from specific vendors. This was a very inefficient management strategy (a non-strategy, in fact) that required each administrator to master a growing set of frequently changing software utilities. It was not always easy to know the right tool for the job, and transferring knowledge to new hires required the skills and patience of a Jedi master.

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