EMC, Compaq Swap APIs

Companies exchange basic management APIs -- not the crowns jewels by a long shot

November 9, 2001

3 Min Read
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EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)has given Compaq Computer Corp. (NYSE: CPQ) first dibs on some of its precious application programming interfaces (APIs).

The move is the first step in EMC's "Widesky" initiative, announced last week, under which it plans to allow its Control Center software to manage other vendors' storage kit (see Compaq, EMC to Cross-License APIs and EMC Goes Soft).

Under the terms of the cross-licensing agreement, EMC and Compaq will swap upper-level management APIs for the EMC Symmetrix and Compaq HS G-80 storage systems. This will enable management software from either company to discover either firm's storage arrays on a network.

The management systems also will be capable of sharing health check information. If theres a problem on the G-80, the Symmetrix software will be able to detect it, and visa versa.

And that’s about as deep as this “friendship” goes so far.“We are not giving up all our APIs,” said Don Swatik, VP of alliances at EMC. “Compaq will not be able to control our Time Finder or SRDF [Symmetrix Remote Data Facility] remote mirroring capabilities."

“That’s hardly a surprise,” according to Harsh Kumar, analyst at Morgan Keegan & Company Inc.. “SRDF is the lifeline of the Symmetrix -- they are never going to give it up."

EMC’s SRDF software enables users to mirror data from one Symmetrix storage array to another in a remote location. It can only be purchased with a Symmetrix array, which costs anywhere from $100,000 to millions of dollars. SRDF costs from $60,000 to $150,000. EMC claims to have shipped more than 2,000 SRDF licenses and as many as 50,000 Symmetrix units.

”Doing remote mirroring in a heterogeneous environment is very tough,” said Swatik. He did not say when or if EMC will ever provide this functionality, or if it would be open to third parties via APIs.

The agreement with Compaq applies only to the Symmetrix line of EMC products for now, but officials say the APIs for EMC’s Clariion line are also likely to be opened up in the future -- although Swatik gives no roadmap. It's also likely that Compaq will eventually open up its VersaStor storage appliance, which the company's been talking about for two years but has yet to ship.There have been some positive murmurings on the EMC/Compaq project.

“It’s a start,” said Steve Duplessie, analyst with the Enterprise Storage Group Inc.. “When two of the largest suppliers and competitors move from rhetoric and theory about cooperation to actually handing over the goods, it’s a good sign.”

But many remain skeptical about the possibility of EMC's getting full cooperation from other vendors in the future, which will be needed for Widesky to succeed.

“Unfortunately, we think that this will be a tall order," wrote A.G. Edwards

analyst Shebly Serafi in a research note. "Just yesterday, IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) told us that EMC would need IBM's APIs to really manage IBM's storage; however, IBM may not be so willing to [provide them]."

EMC's also unwilling to play happy families with everyone. Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), for instance, has been grumbling publicly that EMC won’t trade APIs with it. To which EMC's Swatik says: “The other party has to have something of equal functionality to trade... They have only had APIs for a couple of weeks. We’ve had ours for five years.”— Jo Maitland, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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