Users skeptical about HP, Brocade open standards initiatives

Hewlett-Packard and Brocade want it known they're serious about open standards, but while users may be hopeful, it's going to take a lot more than marketing speak to gain their trust.

LAS VEGAS -- Hewlett-Packard and Brocade made clear their commitment to open standards and multi-vendor support during the second annual Brocade conference being held here but only time and testing may win the trust of users.

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HP's Mark Lewis, head of Worldwide Marketing and Solutions for Network Storage Solutions (NSS) Group, reinforced the new HP's commitment to establishing open standards and APIs during a Q&A session Monday.

"From a strategic standpoint, we believe in openness to as great a degree possible," he said, adding that HP believes that standards should exist throughout the hierarchy of storage, from array control to SAN and fabric management.

The company's product roadmap includes storage area management software for heterogeneous environments. For areas that are not yet standardized, HP will continue API licensing agreements with vendors, such as EMC, as part of its strategy to manage storage across heterogeneous environment, he said.

"Open is great, but we also want to be pragmatic and deliver these solutions very, very quickly," Lewis said.

His comments come on the day Brocade announced its Qualified Support Partner (QSP) program, which trains and authorizes other vendors to provide SAN expertise, service and support to customers. HP will be the first QSP for multi-vendor SAN infrastructure support.

"Partnerships have been a key to our DNA for some time. We believe that Brocade, for example, has been a, if not the, strategic partner for us in the storage area networking," said Lewis.

Conference attendee Kenneth Bain, owner of K&S Systems, a storage management and disaster recovery services provider, said these seem like good initiatives, but it's too early to tell.

"Interoperability is a big problem," he said. Many users don't have the confidence to buy into certain technologies, and lack of interoperability doesn't help. Bain said he works only with vendors that have proven their products work together.

When asked what's at the top of her storage wish list, Susan Tafolla, storage architect of EDS-Bell South Technology Group, said, "Low-level, Fibre Channel specification testing and greater interoperability."

"The problem is that vendors have tested something like your configuration, but not exactly," Tafolla said, adding that the problem is industrywide, not vendor-specific.

For instance, when implementing remote data transfer, her team found that frequently interoperability testing was not done on the same scale, or it was never tested with their particular software solutions, according to Gregory Hollis, vendor researcher, and Brian Watson, backup and recovery services specialist of EDS-Bell South Technology Group. "[Such issues] keep people like Brian up 16, 32, 46, 64 hours," said Tafolla.

"It eventually gets resolved, but it's still more time consuming than it should be," said Tafolla.

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