Laura Sanders, VP of IBM Tivoli Storage Software

"I think standardization is happening, but there are more press releases than code."

June 26, 2003

11 Min Read
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The head of IBM Tivoli's storage management software group, Laura Sanders, has been on the job for less than a year. But she quickly clued in that the storage world is woefully behind the times in one particular area: Today, there aren't viable standards for managing multivendor storage environments.

"That's what amazes me about the storage industry this software works only with that API, you need this software to talk to that switch," she says. "The customers are going to have to say, 'This standards process isn't happening fast enough.' "

Sanders, singing straight from the IBM songbook [ed. note: we wouldn't be surprised if one actually exists], believes standards are vital to the industry. Moreover, she believes that by aggressively driving support for the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) standards, Tivoli and IBM's storage hardware group will gain an edge against key competitors, most notably EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC).

"You have to build [software] in an open way – and I think that's going to hurt some folks who are talking one way and delivering in another," she says, referring not-very-elliptically to EMC.

Tivoli will need to use all the advantages at its disposal if it wants to increase its share in this highly competitive segment. In 2002, IBM Tivoli held 13 percent share of the overall storage software market by revenue, trailing EMC (25 percent) and Veritas Software Corp. (Nasdaq: VRTS) (19 percent), according to Gartner Inc.Sanders says she's ready for the challenge, though she notes that she views her business unit in the context of Tivoli's overall systems management software business. Sanders has been with IBM for 19 years – yep, she's a Big Blue lifer. Previously, she was in charge of integrating IBM's acquisition of database vendor Informix, which it bought in 2001.

She started her IBM career in Boca Raton, Fla., as an engineer and then software developer, holding various management positions, mostly in the software group but also in finance. She received a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering and a master's of business administration in finance from Tulane University.

Sanders spoke with US Editor Todd Spangler about beating EMC and Veritas; why the storage resource management (SRM) market hasn't met expectations; the looming shakeout among storage software startups; and, briefly, about her dogs named after classical composers.

To read the full interview, click on the links below:

Byte and Switch: We understand you're a classically trained pianist. Who are your favorite composers?Sanders: My dogs are named Mozart and Chopin, which should give you some idea. Well, Chopin recently died. We have a new dog named Elsa, which doesn't fit the theme...

Byte and Switch: Ah. So, your other passion is storage software.

Sanders: Yeah, how'd you guess? I actually think it's a very interesting market. One reason is, there's the shift from the hardware layer to the software layer in terms of the differentiation and value. The second is, the players in the market are searching for value outside of where they're finding their revenue today. And the other thing is, I'm surprised about the lack of standards in the storage market.

Byte and Switch: What are Tivoli's main goals for the storage software market?

Sanders: Well, our No. 1 goal is to deliver to our customers, help them evolve from where storage is today – in islands, and even if it's in a SAN, it's in SAN islands – into a more integrated part of their IT environment.Byte and Switch: Do you have specific market share goals?

Sanders: I certainly have particular market share goals. But I see our business as part of the overall software group at Tivoli, so I would look at that differently than a Veritas or an EMC. But we come to work every day wanting to lead in the market.

Byte and Switch: Tivoli's backup software [Tivoli Storage Manager] has been stuck in the No. 2 market share spot behind Veritas. [In 2002, Veritas had 46 percent total market share, and Tivoli had 17 percent, according to Gartner.]

Sanders: The interesting thing about the backup and recovery market is that it's very different around the world. Veritas has a much stronger hold in the U.S. than outside the U.S. Outside the U.S., we're pretty much neck and neck.

Byte and Switch: So what will it take to beat Veritas in the U.S.?Sanders: There are a couple of things we need to focus on... The market is changing. Before, the market was focused on, "Can I back up?" Now it's focused on, "Can I recover?" and we shine there. We're very fast on data recovery – you know you're going to come back. New technologies like disk-to-disk backup are emerging, and we've been doing that for 10 years. Then, in terms of total data protection and disaster recovery, how do I make it easier, and how do I tie it into policy-based management? That's what customers are moving to, which is great for us because we have all the parts.

Byte and Switch: It seemed like a year ago everyone was talking about automation, policy-based management, high-level stuff like that. What happened to those buzzwords?

Sanders: The buzzword I've heard lately is provisioning. I still hear policy-based management. The thing that changed was, it used to be, "Manage everything on the SAN with policy-based management and life would be awesome." The reality in IT is that nothing is as easy as you would hope. Companies don't know how to set the policy.

NEXT: SRM und Drang

Byte and Switch: SRM hasn't met expectations. Why not?Sanders: I think the market has been slower than everybody would have thought. The original confusion was, is SAN management part of SRM, or is SRM part of SAN management? Then we found most customers are more focused on availability than optimization. I would have guessed the driver for SRM would be optimization, because very few companies have growing IT budgets right now... I still think SRM is a logical part of the portfolio and something you wonder how you lived without.

Byte and Switch: Was buying TrelliSoft the right move, in hindsight? [See IBM Snaps Up TrelliSoft.]

Sanders: I think that TrelliSoft was an excellent acquisition. I can clearly say that, because I had nothing to do with that. I started the day we closed. One, it's a very intelligent tie between storage management and systems management. So it's the hub around which you optimize your storage and ensure its availability. It's also able to say to the systems management guys, "Hey, this is what's happening over here." The other reason I think it was an excellent acquisition is that it fits into our philosophy: It's Java-based, it's open, it works across all hardware environments. We had customers that came from TrelliSoft that are getting value right away.

Byte and Switch: BMC Software Inc. [NYSE: BMC] recently pulled the plug on its storage software group. Doesn't that indicate that the pie is too small in this space? [See BMC Folds Storage Unit.]

Sanders: I don't think it's a question of the pie being too small. I think storage management on its own is absolutely critical. Storage management as part of managing the larger part of your business will be the new table stakes. Clearly, so many people were making money from the differentiation in the hardware layer – like EMC – and they can't do that anymore, so I think that's driving interest in this area. Also, there are parts of the data protection market, even though it's not a triple-digit growth area, there are areas of opportunity. Like email: How are you going to handle the data protection in a very specific way, including regulatory compliance?Byte and Switch: Were you interested at all in BMC's storage software assets?

Sanders: [Pause] There wasn't anything we saw in the BMC technology or customer base that really lit us up.

Byte and Switch: So you didn't bid for them?

Sanders: No, we did not bid for them.

Byte and Switch: Do you think we'll see more consolidation in the industry?Sanders: For the very many little guys out there, yes. It's the typical, "It's been three years and I need someone to buy me." We'll see similar consolidation that we've seen in the data management market, where some people say, "My business model is not working." Either that or, "There's just simply not enough addressable market for me."

NEXT: Standards: 'More Press Releases Than Code'

Byte and Switch: How is Tivoli positioned compared with the storage-centric software vendors?

Sanders: I think we're excellently positioned. We don't have to go through what some of the other players have to do in talking to a systems management platform, because we are a systems management company... So we've already gone though how this stuff should all work together. You have to build it in an open way – and I think that's going to hurt some folks who are talking one way and delivering in another...

We always stick to our Open religion. Customers don't want to be controlled by their vendor. One-stop shopping shouldn't mean, "Hi, here's the rope, let me tie your hands." Customers ask, "Does your stuff work only with IBM hardware?" The answer is, "Absolutely not, that's why we're a separate division." That's what amazes me about the storage industry – this software works only with that API, you need this software to talk to that switch... The customers are going to have to say, "This standards process isn't happening fast enough." I think standardization is happening, but there are more press releases than code. We're putting our code where our press releases are.Byte and Switch: When you say certain vendors are "talking one way and delivering in another," are you referring to EMC or Veritas?

Sanders: [Pause] I was referring to a number of players. I think EMC is the clearest example in the industry – their WideSky initiative is like when Microsoft Corp. [Nasdaq: MSFT] tried to take over Java... I sure hope EMC will go support the SNIA [Storage Networking Industry Association] initiative for CIM [Common Information Model] standards, because the one thing we can't do is provision them... I hope they want to get there, because I do believe it's the best thing for the industry. But it's probably difficult to go from being a hardware company to being a hardware and software company.

Byte and Switch: Is that a gap – that you can't provision EMC storage?

Sanders: If a customer wakes up and their No. 1 priority is to provision an EMC box, yes, that's a gap. But one of the big shifts we're seeing is, the hardware vendor used to tell you what to do. Now the value is moving from the differentiation you can get from a piece of hardware, to the differentiation from software and services.

NEXT: Fast Forward?Byte and Switch: Where is Tivoli vis-à-vis support for CIM? When will it be ubiquitous and useful in the way, say, SNMP [Simple Network Management Protocol] is? [See Storage Standards Solidify.]

Sanders: CIM support is pretty robust for the first instantiation. Hopefully, CIM will surpass how quickly SNMP has evolved over time. But I would expect you should be able to at least address a piece of hardware and tell it what you want it to do through the standard. The only limit to the standard is how fast we move forward on it. I don't see any technical limitations to this.

Byte and Switch: When do you think will it happen, then?

Sanders: Since I come from a software background, I bet my view is that it will happen faster than some of my peers [think it will]. I would like to see this happen very quickly. It's pulling the industry back instead of forward.

Byte and Switch: IBM's storage hardware group has its own virtualization software projects – the SAN Volume Controller and StorageTank. Shouldn't those be in the Tivoli group with the rest of the storage management software? [See IBM Plays With Self (Virtually) and IBM Virtually in the Game.]Sanders: My answer to this question is orthogonal. Nobody seems to care that I run storage management at Tivoli. Why do they care that Brian Truskowski [general manager for storage software in the IBM Systems Group] runs the virtualization software? The way we've established this may be logical over time, or it may not be. We put it there because the first instantiation is with the IBM hardware, and we want that layer to be accessed and manageable by any management system. Meanwhile, I need to be able to manage other people's virtualization layers. That's a logical instantiation of "we're open."

Byte and Switch: What areas are you looking at for acquisitions?

Sanders: Well, we don't really talk about our acquisition strategy, as you can imagine. But what I'm focused on in the portfolio is, how do we do what we need to do right now? Which is, managing growth while ensuring availability and reducing cost. We're not sitting in an industry where everything is fine back at the ranch. The customers are having to deal with some very real problems... and so my focus is on: How do I ensure the availability and optimization of the storage environment? But I don't wake up in the morning and say, "Who do I need to buy today?"

— Todd Spangler, US Editor, Byte and Switch

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