Vendors denounce EMC's WideSky as defacto standard

Vendors at a recent storage conference tried to convince attendees that EMC's new storage management software is bad news for the industry. Analysts, however, say WideSky has a good chance of becoming a standard.

NEW YORK--What is the center of the storage universe? Some believe it's hardware, others software. One thing's for sure. Few want it to be EMC.

A panel discussion between some of the storage industry's biggest vendors at the Marcus Evans Data Management and Business Continuity Conference last week took aim at EMC when representatives from IBM Corp., Hitachi Data Systems, Hewlett-Packard Co., and Computer Associates International Inc., actually agreed on one common goal -- to keep EMC's WideSky storage management software from becoming the de facto standard for storage management.

EMC's storage strategy, dubbed AutoIS, involves bringing in partners and, in some cases, competitors to solve interoperability issues around storage management. But according to Doug Fierro, director of enterprise storage networking for EMC, cooperation from the rest of the industry is not entirely necessary for EMC to accomplish its goal.

"It's easier to cooperate, but we can do it on our own without the help of our competitors," said Fierro. "We'll go the reverse engineering route if we have to."

"I think it's ironic we're getting blasted for trying to [develop] open standards. If we're delivering openness - if we're a catalyst then we're driving conversations and driving product to market." Fierro said either way the customer wins.

The other members of the panel said the Storage Networking Industry Association is the key to the future of management software. The SNIAis working on a common model for managing storage in the enterprise called the Common Information Model (CIM). According to the SNIA, CIM extends the existing instrumentation and management standards (SNMP, DMI, CMIP, etc.) using object-oriented constructs and design.

IBM's strategy director of storage systems, Clod Barrera, said management is the thing that is holding up storage networking and while EMC claims to have solved all the problems, real advancement depends on a high-level of industry cooperation.

"There isn't any other technology on the horizon other than CIM that's likely to solve the [management] problem," he said. "There is still a huge amount of work to be done around protocols, object recognition and interoperability testing. CIM is what we all believe the answer is."

Steve East, vice president of storage integration, HDS, said flat out that users should not choose EMC's WideSky. "EMC is on this adventure to manage everyone's stuff," said East.

East said EMC decided to take a marketing posture to drive the market before a truly open industry standard had a chance to be developed.

"We'd love to have EMC manage some features, but we're not going to make their product stronger by giving them access to our arrays," East said.

Author and independent storage expert Jon William Toigo said EMC is the storage industry's equivalent to Microsoft in the world of operating systems.

"They're firing a shot across the bow," said Toigo. "EMC at worst establishes a de facto standard and at best drives the advancement of [another management] model."

WideSky is a major effort by a major vendor, so it will certainly not go unnoticed by the competition, said Mike Karp, senior analyst for Boulder, Colo.-based Enterprise Management Associates Inc.

"Most major vendors are likely to be skeptical of EMC's initiative, even though it may be an enabler for all of them," said Karp. "Unfortunately, the industry has not been too successful at creating useful standards without having a cadre of significant vendors driving the initiative. And unfortunately for the industry, getting a core of significant vendors to agree on anything in storage is not that easy."

Let us know what you think about the story, e-mail Kevin Komiega, assistant news editor

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