API Swaps: Only Skin Deep

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Storage management vendors are taking different routes to support the heterogeneous devices.

@exe If nothing else, this fall's spate of storage management software announcements - EMC AutoIS "Chapter 2," HP Open View Storage Area Manager 3.0, and Veritas SANPoint Control 3.5, to name a few - has highlighted the ways you can get at a storage device: through an API, SNMP, NFS or CIFS, through a command line or by reverse engineering, a technique that EMC has resorted to.

Reverse engineering has obvious downsides. "Sometimes, the firmware in a device changes three or four times a year," says Dan Hoffmann, director of enterprise storage management at BMC Software. "When the firmware changes, the interface changes."

It also raises legal concerns, says Mark Sorenson, vice president of HP's Storage Software Division. "Customers should be loathe to bet their business on products that could end up being evidence in a lawsuit." EMC and HP are currently serving each other with copyright infringement suits.

But API swaps are not necessarily superior. What exactly does it mean when two vendors swap APIs? Do the APIs provide a means to "reach down into the machine and reconfigure it," asks John Webster, senior analyst at the Data Mobility Group, or simply a means of monitoring of the array? "It really depends on the nature of the agreement."

To give EMC credit, the Symmetrix APIs are among "the best in the industry," admits BMC's Hoffman, whereas IBM's Shark "doesn't have a good API at all."

This was first published in November 2002
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