Will HP Help Standards Surge?

HP says its SMI-S program will speed the standard's adoption, but a rival smells a marketing stunt

July 12, 2003

4 Min Read
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As the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) prepares to ratify the industrys first storage management standard, Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) claims its new developers program will push more companies to jump onboard (see HP Launches SMI-S Program).

The company launched the developers program this week, maintaining that it will help facilitate the adoption of SNIA's Storage Management Interface Specification (SMI-S), an industry standard that defines a common interface for identifying, classifying, monitoring, and controlling physical and logical storage resources.

"We’ve been tracking the SMI-S development from the beginning,” says Phil Kemp, a product marketing manager at HP. "Our customers are asking us to solve heterogeneous management problems in their environments... HP is very committed to the open industry standards."

Many in the storage industry, which has been plagued by interoperability problems, have been pining for a single management standard for some time. After more than a year in the making, it appears that SMI-S, which SNIA unveiled in April and is expected to ratify in early September, could finally be on the threshold of mass adoption (see Storage Standards Solidify and SNIA Puts the Pieces Together).

SNIA is aiming for 40 percent of all storage to be managed by SMI-S by the end of next year, with the goal of covering all storage by the end of 2005.Of course, the fact that the SMI-S standard is all but set raises the question of why a developers program with interoperability testing is necessary in the first place. Isn’t the point of standards to be able to avoid participating in time-consuming tests with other vendors’ equipment?

Kemp agrees that with more mature standards, a developers program would probably be a waste of time. SMI-S, however, he says, is still a very young standard, and companies are looking for a business case for developing it into their products. HP’s developers program addresses this not only by giving its partners access to its SMI-S interfaces for testing purposes, but also by offering them its mighty marketing resources and support. “Everything except the support is free of charge,” Kemp says. “We’re offering them a very low barrier to get involved.”

And as with any standard, there are always going to be nuances in how it's implemented that need to be ironed out. “There’s still a need for a small amount of consulting,” Kemp contends, pointing out that the standard won’t be exactly the same for managing tape versus managing disk. There will also be differences between different types of disk arrays, he says.

HP has already signed up AppIQ Corp., BMC Software Inc. (NYSE: BMC), Computer Associates International Inc. (CA) (NYSE: CA), CreekPath Systems Inc., Storability Inc., and Veritas Software Corp. (Nasdaq: VRTS) for the program. “This is going to give us a much quicker time to market with supporting the HP storage platforms,” says Jim Geronaitis, AppIQ's director of strategic alliances. “We’re very, very excited to be one of the first companies to work with them in this space.” [Ed. note: Not just excited, but very, very excited.]

While HP is the first company to launch a developers program aimed specifically at easing the migration to the SMI-S standard, it is certainly not the only vendor working on getting the standard off the ground (see Bluefin Swims to the Surface). Every major storage player out there has joined the charge towards standardizing storage management by participating in interoperability tests and SNIA’s SMI Lab plugfests.But at least one of HP’s competitors, EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC), is questioning why the company felt it necessary to break away with a separate development effort.

“Why establish a separate program outside of SNIA?” asks Larry Krantz, EMC’s senior technologist, who is also the chair of SNIA’s Storage Management Forum. “Developers from all the major companies are already working in parallel at the SMI Lab... There, you can throw much more resources at the problems... to refine the specifications.” Instead of trying to push the standard, Krantz speculates, the move by HP may simply be a marketing ploy.

HP claims that the program gives its partners a headstart in the development process, allowing it to more quickly concentrate its resources on adding more features to its products rather than on making proprietary products work together.

— Eugénie Larson, Reporter, Byte and Switch

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