EMC Corp. has dropped its WideSky software initiative as its storage management platform in favor of the Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S), an open storage management standard expected to be ratified by year's end.
Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC said WideSky, a "universal translator" between storage arrays and management applications, will no longer be packaged as a middleware layer with its hardware and software products.
"We're not going to use the WideSky brand anywhere in the marketplace," said Mark Lewis, EMC's vice president of Open Software Operations. "What we're trying to do is make some definitive clarifications around EMC and what we're doing, and the status of SMI-S."
Lewis said standards will serve as the common language or middleware layer between EMC's arrays and third party management applications, EMC's management applications and 3rd party arrays, and EMC's own management applications and EMC's arrays.
Native SMI-S providers for Clariion and Symmetrix will be available in December 2003 and will be backward compatible with all Symmetrix systems shipped since --> 97 and Clariion systems shipped since 2000. On the software side, SMI-S-enabled storage management applications including VisualSRM, VisualSAN and ControlCenter will be available in the first quarter of 2004.
EMC said upgrading to SMI-S will be no more complicated than upgrading a software driver.
Nancy Marrone-Hurley, senior analyst for the Enterprise Storage Group Inc., Milford, Mass., said EMC's offering is more than WideSky in a SMI-S wrapper.
She said the CIM modules and SMI-S definitions will be implemented as they are defined, so that any vendor supporting SMI-S will be able to manage the EMC supported arrays. However, she added, SMI-S is not the end-all-be-all.
Marrone-Hurley believes the transition period from API exchanges and reverse engineering for interoperability to SMI-S-based systems will be longer than EMC's prediction of one year. "Most vendors I talked to said they expect to be supporting both APIs and SMI-S for at least a few more years," she said. "That is driven by the fact that SMI-S may not give users all of the same features they get from APIs today, and users will need to transition if they have management applications using APIs in place today."
"SMI-S does not cover every aspect of managing the arrays, so EMC may add on additional capabilities that they may or may not keep as proprietary," Marrone-Hurley added. For example, current APIs may offer more functionality than the CIM modules. "Realize that every vendor will do this. One reason that all of the vendors are on board with SMI-S is because once there is a standard, they will no longer need to write APIs for every one of their products that they put out the door."
Instead of focusing on writing basic APIs, the vendors can focus on developing advanced features for their own products.
SMI-S may be on the radar screen of the average storage user, but it is not a major factor in purchasing decisions today. Most users just want to know it's on the vendor's roadmap.
"Users do care about standards, however, at the moment they want a solution that can solve the problems they are experiencing today," said Marrone-Hurley.
Zak Zacharia, CEO at BuilderDepot Inc., runs an online home improvement store similar to Lowe's and Home Depot. In doing so, he has to support more than 70,000 products, 1,600 suppliers and 2,500 customers.
"I don't want to hear about the bits and bytes. I want to know how safe my investment is," he said. "Knowing that there is an organization like the SNIA working on standards and interfaces and that something like SMI-S is here, or very soon to be here, gives me peace of mind."
The real promise of SMI-S factors into the cost of storage management software. Rather than having individual management tools for each storage platform in a data center users can use software from one vendor to manage a multi-vendor storage environment.
"[SMI-S] is going to do almost nothing for customers today other than give them a very good feeling that they can buy it from EMC. If they don't like their hardware or software they have flexibility," said EMC's Lewis. "They may never use it, but there is a strong desire for it."
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