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HP acquisition may be warning sign for SMI-S

Will HP's acquisition of independent SRM vendor AppIQ slow down the SMI-S standard and the long-term prospect for heterogeneous storage management?

After news broke that AppIQ Inc. had been acquired by Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP), some analysts and channel partners warned that the deal could put true standards-based storage resource management (SRM) software in danger.

AppIQ was a major force behind the SMI-S management software standard for SRM. SMI-S is a standard put forth by the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) that is intended to facilitate the management of storage devices from multiple vendors from a single console.

"The worst case scenario for me would be for all the other hardware manufacturers to say, 'Now that this is controlled by HP, we better run off and develop our own product suites.' Then I'd have to invest a lot of time and engineering resources to understanding each one of those tools," said Ed Gogol, director of enterprise systems for Norcross, Ga.-based reseller Solarcom LLC.

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The future of AppIQ's relationship with its OEMs is hanging in the balance right now. Sun Microsystems Inc., which had been touting its AppIQ-based product, the Sun StorEdge Enterprise Storage Manager, since early last year, seems most at risk.

"Long term, they [HP] might pull the plug on Sun," said Arun Taneja, founder and analyst with the Taneja Group. "Across the board on servers, storage, Linux -- they are deadly competitors."

As of press time, several inquiries to Sun officials about the future of the partnership were not answered.

Beyond a potential severance with Sun, some analysts also noted that the startup may have been able to give SMI-S the most weight because of its independent position.

"AppIQ was an independent company. Now it's part of HP," said John Webster, founder and analyst with Data Mobility Group. "Were some of those companies customers because AppIQ was an independent company? Probably. Now that it will be supported and developed by HP, does that change their attitude to the product? Maybe. HP must keep these customers in the fold."

Gogol said he hoped HP would handle the acquisition of AppIQ the way EMC had managed its acquisition of VMWare in January 2004. "You still have IBM and HP pushing VMWare with their blade technologies. HP needs to keep [AppIQ] independent, even more than the OpenView product if they're going to be successful in this market."

HP optimistic

HP officials said the software will remain vendor agnostic, and other AppIQ partners remained upbeat about the deal.

"Our intent is to continue AppIQ partnerships and we remain committed to standards," said Frank Harbist, vice president and general manager of ILM and storage software at HP.

"AppIQ has assured us that they will continue to support their OEMs, and expects no change in the relationship with SGI [Silicon Graphics Inc.]. We will continue to partner with AppIQ/HP for SAN and storage management software," John Howarth, director of Silicon Graphics Inc.'s Storage and Software Group, said in a statement.

"I'd be surprised if they would take an open systems approach and make it proprietary," said Hitachi Data Systems Inc. account representative Mike Winkleman. "I think they'll remain independent."

Engenio Information Technologies Inc., a division of LSI Logic Storage Systems Inc. that had also integrated AppIQ software into its products, was also unreachable for comment as of press time.

"Engenio resells to everybody so there's no issue there," Webster said.

Ray Dunn, the former chairman of SNIA's SMI forum, and its current secretary, said the SMI-S standard wasn't going anywhere. "AppIQ didn't have a monopoly on this. Sun has other functionality built on SMI-S, as does IBM and EMC."

Moreover, though the ultimate effect of the acquisition remains to be seen, industry experts note that HP does have a strong history of pushing standards. "In network management and SNMP they were definitely on the side of the angels there," said a source familiar with the company.

HP on "partnership tear"

Meanwhile, HP may be used to working with competitors -- it has been unveiling numerous OEM deals of its own of late. Or, as Webster put it, they are on a "partnership tear."

In May, the company announced StorageWorks 6480 Virtual Library System based on Sepaton Inc.'s virtual tape library software; StorageWorks Enterprise Modular Library based on StorageTek's SL500 tape library, the Enterprise File Services Clustered Gateway based on PolyServe Inc.'s clustered file system software; and Enterprise File Services WAN Accelerator based on Riverbed Technologies Inc.'s Steelhead software.

Three more announcements were made earlier this month: StorageWorks Reference Information Manager for database archiving using Outerbay Technologies Inc.'s Application Data Management software to archive database records; ProLiant DL 100 G2 and ProLiant DL 380 G4 Data Protection Storage Servers built around Microsoft's Data Protection Manager and Windows Storage Server 2003; and Electronic Vaulting Services built on Asigra Inc.'s Televaulting software.

"I'm impressed with HP's aggressiveness," Taneja said. "Sometimes you've got to be bashed in your face. During [ex-CEO] Carly [Fiorina]'s era they certainly got bashed up, but HP is showing a different color right now."

Taneja said the new energy pumped into the company is coming from the people it picked up with the Persist Technologies Inc. acquisition. HP acquired Persist for an undisclosed sum in 2003 for its data management software.

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