Aperi Appears Amid Questions

IBM and others plan open-source storage management - opinions are mixed

October 26, 2005

4 Min Read
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Storage Networking World -- A group of companies led by IBM plans to create an open-source, software-based platform for storage management applications. But the announcement raises more questions than it answers. And at least one major storage player claims not to have been invited to join.

At the Storage Networking World conference here today, IBM took the wraps off Aperi, a group that plans to develop products for managing storage devices based on common open-source software code.

The idea is to create software that would allow vendors to write value-added apps for various hardware platforms without having to recreate code for every application.

IBM plans to donate all of its standards-based management software -- including the part that supports the Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S) created by Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA).

IBM says the SNIA work is in another realm from this open-source group. "SMI-S is an industry standard, not a collaboration. It doesn't provide a framework to actually manage open source and deliver products on top of it," says Laura Sanders, VP of IBM's TotalStorage Products and Solutions group.Besides IBM, Aperi members include Brocade, Cisco, Computer Associates, Engenio, Fujitsu, McData, Network Appliance, and Sun. They have gotten together and mutually agreed to form a group that shares open-source code. Membership requires them to commit to putting out open-source code and helping maintain and test it.

But no money has changed hands, no resources have been assigned, and no plan has been set.

"We think that in about three months or so we'll be ready to start work," says Bruce Hillsberg, director of storage software strategy and technology for IBM's Systems Group. Agreeing on a licensing model that doesn't require each vendor to reinvent the wheel has been a key accomplishment so far, he says, one that customers will benefit from.

IBM spokespeople say Aperi is being modeled on Eclipse, an open-source community that started out as an IBM software development group but evolved into a not-for-profit last year.

Not everyone embraces the notion of Aperi. There are glaring omissions from the membership list -- EMC, HP, Hitachi, Symantec/Veritas, to name a few. Although IBM claims to have invited every major player to join, at least two claim that wasn't the case.EMC, for one. Here's what an EMC spokesman wrote in an email today:

  • We were perplexed that EMC was informed of the proposed initiative from IBM AFTER IBM had already pre-briefed some of the media, reflecting a consortium without EMC's inclusion... We were equally perplexed that the Storage Networking Industry Association -- the existing industry consortium that has been working on storage management standards for a number of years -- was also not engaged in the process.

Hewlett-Packard is likewise miffed. Here's what Frank Harbist, VP and GM of HP's ILM and Storage Software group, wrote in an email:

  • We are glad IBM is following HPs lead in announcing an open community initiative to establish a standard platform for advanced, heterogeneous storage management applications... While we welcome IBM’s efforts to make HP’s proposed model stronger, we don’t understand why IBM has skipped over the necessary first step of defining a specification, and instead has moved directly to suggesting an implementation and a business model. And we don’t believe another project is needed to drive standards, since this appears to be based on IBM’s own technology under the guise of open source.

HP's recent purchase of AppIQ is considered a similar effort to create an industry-standard platform for storage management. (See HP Chomps AppIQ & Peregrine.) When asked to comment on this in today's Aperi press conference, Sanders conceded HP had spent "a lot of money" to achieve a similar goal.

The sniping illustrates the point for those skeptical of Aperi. "Here we go again. We've been down this road before, many times," says Greg Schulz, senior analyst of Evaluator Group. He says it remains to be seen whether IBM and the others can surmount proprietary concerns to make the project's goals really happen.

At least one other analyst, however, who asked not to be named, cautions against underestimating the power of the initiative. "This is big news. IBM is putting all of its SMI-S and CIM code into open source... No, I wouldn't pooh-pooh it."— Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

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