Hey! Out of My Margin

Aperi threatens to make storage software a commodity item

November 9, 2005

2 Min Read
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Anyone else catch that faint whiff of commoditization?

Well, somebody had to say it. That's the real reason the loosely formed Aperi consortium is causing such a fuss, quite apart from who was or wasn't invited to join and when. (See Aperi Appears Amid Questions.)

By working together, Brocade, Cisco, Computer Associates, IBM, McData, Network Appliance, and Sun hope to share open-source code and crack the nut of multivendor management. The thinking is that this sort of consortium approach will keep each vendor from having to reinvent the wheel of storage management.

Byte and Switch columnist Jon William Toigo refers to this as a "hack the planet" approach that the open-source community has applied to countless other IT requirements in the last 15 years. (See Strange Fascination With Aperi.) Aperi, he adds, is just what storage needs to overcome vendor inertia and their inability to wean themselves off proprietary goods.

But whether we're talking about information lifecycle management (ILM) or the Storage Management Interface Specification (SMI-S), most storage vendors have shown they'll tolerate only so much interoperability. It's pretty clear the hooks and the APIs that have to be shared aren't the brainbusters vendors might have us believe. And in some instances, they could get expensive to develop or refine.Let's be clear: Interoperability means a vendor runs the risk of getting cut out of the revenue flow, so it's counterintuitive to expect them to really get behind such initiatives. Which explains the lack of interest in Aperi from EMC and Symantec, which both grumbled something about a lack of standards and specs.

If you've been living under a LUN for the past five years, you might have missed storage vendors' mad rush to software markets (overstuffed pocketbooks in hand). Software was seen as the way forward, its rich, juicy margins bolstering their balance sheets as RAID and other storage hardware became simple commodities.

Aperi threatens all that. It exposes the vulnerabilities of the business models used by ILM, SMI-S, and other grand designs for storage management. And while I understand the leading vendors' entrenchment on this issue, I can't muster much sympathy for it, especially since it puts other interests ahead of what's best for customers. It's marginal thinking, and it keeps storage technology from evolving to whatever's next for the industry.

Is that commoditization and consolidation? Maybe. Aperi will help us find out.

Terry Sweeney, Editor in Chief, Byte and SwitchOrganizations mentioned in this article:

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