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IBM and HDS swap programming code for storage servers

IBM and Hitachi Data Systems are kicking cooperation up a notch.

The pair announced a technology pact on Wednesday that will allow the companies access to the programming code for their respective storage devices.

Normally when a new storage device is introduced into a network it disrupts the network and makes it necessary to change the way the storage is managed. Now a Hitachi system can be added to a network where there is IBM storage, and vice versa, and no operational changes are necessary. The different storage servers can be managed by and use the same software.

Specifically, IBM, Armonk, N.Y., has licensed the storage Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for its Enterprise Storage Server, code-named Shark, to Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Hitachi, Ltd. In return, IBM has access to the APIs for Hitachi's Lightning 9900 Series storage server.

APIs are the programming code or instructions for how to access and share data between storage servers and devices.

As a result of the technology agreement HDS will be able to maintain compatibility with IBM's Peer-to-Peer Remote Copy (PPRC) and Extended Remote Copy (XRC) features, and will add FlashCopy, Multiple Allegiance, and Parallel Access Volumes (PAV) on its own enterprise storage systems. IBM will now be able to support such functions as Hitachi's NanoCopy and ShadowImage on its Shark server.

"We?re saying that not only will we coexist in the same SAN fabric, but we're saying that now you can use the same software to operate our systems," said Mike Harrison, IBM's director of business alliances.

IBM said the API specifications and documentation has already changed hands and is currently in its laboratories. Harrison expects to see the results of this deal come to life in the form of a microcode upgrade within the next three-to-six months.

As an example of what this makes possible, Claus Mikkelsen director, of storage applications for Hitachi Data Systems said an IBM DB2 database can now span Hitachi and IBM storage and be part of the same remote copy session for disaster recovery. "This results not only in lower acquisition costs, but reduced installation and management costs," said Mikkelsen. "You can have both a Ford and Chevy in the driveway and don't have to re-learn how to drive."

Both IBM and HDS agree that this will increase competition between the two, but they welcome the challenge. "A level playing field means everyone competes on their own merits," said Mikkelsen.

Interoperability has taken center stage this week. On Monday, six of the major players in the industry came together under the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) to form the Supported Solutions Forum (SSF), under which storage companies must provide customers a single point of contact for supporting multivendor interoperability issues. Brocade Communications Systems Inc., McData Corp., EMC Corp., Compaq Computer Corp., HDS and IBM are the founding members of the SSF.

While the SNIA SSF provides for cooperation on the business level, the deal between IBM and HDS takes cooperation one-step further.

"This kicks the interoperability discussion up another level to the operational or software layer where customers are most concerned about cost," said Harrison. "We welcome any storage vendor to enter into this type of agreement."

Harrison added that in the 80's and early 90's IBM was considered by many to be the most closed and proprietary when it came to its technology. "We suffered a lot of pain from that approach. Now with new companies coming into storage like moths to a flame it's time to take a different approach. We're willing to take the customer out of the interoperability wars," said Harrison.

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

For more information:

Tips on choosing SAN components for interoperability

Big four in storage ready to interoperate

IBM, Compaq, Others Team on Storage Initiatives

Dig Deeper on Server-based storage

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