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Q&A: Storage big guns back standards, Linux

DALLAS -- It wasn't the most exciting executive panel ever held during a user trade show -- they all agreed with one another. Still, executives participating in Tuesday's general session at the Veritas Vision 2002 conference raised a number of good points regarding their responsibility to users in a rapidly changing technical environment. Among those responsibilities was included the support of standards and Linux. Kate Evans-Correia, Senior News Editor, SearchStorage, talks to Robin Purohit, vice president of product management at Veritas and one of the executives participating in the panel. The panel also included executives from Hewlett-Packard, Brocade, Hitachi, IBM, Dell, Compaq, Oracle and Sun. EMC was notably absent from the lineup.

There was a lot of talk about support for Windows and Linux. Would you explain what you're hearing from users about these platforms?
There are two very different drivers in the data center environment. With Windows 2000, they're comfortable with the technology. They're ready to deploy. We saw this about six months ago, now that's ramping up. There's particular interest in SQL and Exchange. So, they're asking us to wrap our storage capabilities that they're used to seeing on Unix and take it up to the Windows level -- but make it as automatic as possible.

On the Linux side, it really is about cost. Again, six to nine months ago we started to see the interest in Linux (by enterprise users). A number of Fortune 1000 companies have come to us and said that for cost reasons, they're putting anything that's not mission-critical on a less expensive platform -- and that's turned out to be Linux. What they wanted from us is that our standard products be available on Linux. It's a different proposition (than in other applications). They want the same functionality but on a different platform. When discussing support of Windows and Linux Tuesday morning, you and others stressed the importance of making sure your users don't just jump in for the wrong reason. What's the wrong reason? What's the right reason?
We're really talking just about Linux and it's important that users don't start using Linux for cost and cost alone. Linux isn't being used for critical apps -- not yet. Users are moving to Linux for the less critical apps because it's more cost affective. So, the right reason is for cost. It's cost but cost in the right place. The wrong reason would be to choose it just for the cost without thinking about the application. When, if ever, will vendors totally, 100% support open standards?
You have to look at what rate the standards are progressing. CIM (Common Information Model) has the best shot in providing a common interface. Within the next 12 months, maybe 20% to 30% (of a software's component or features) will be customized. For at least the next three years, we'll still be doing one-on-one (customization) where there are features that won't (fall under any standards).

Our hope is, and the reason (vendors) are excited about CIM is that they can extend it. (Unique capabilities of the software are not standardized and remain proprietary to the software). So, if everyone gets behind that, we're going to have faster integration. It'll make it easier for users to deploy. Brice Clark from Hewlett-Packard said that open standards are "crucial to the growth of the industry." How do open standards benefit your users?
We find that if people know that they can change a component -- an element of software in the future, they're more likely to buy now. From a perception issue, users can buy more confidently knowing they won't get trapped. Also, standards make it easier for us, for a faster integration cycle. You also said you wanted to make sure that the product was viable and a number of execs were in agreement. What are you really saying? I'm sure you want all your products to be viable before they're brought to market. Is there something more with Linux?
Yes. We want to make sure that the products we're shipping that support Linux are stable. The pitfall is that distributors of Linux seem to come out with a new release every two months. If you have an operating system that changes that often?well, how can we work with that? We're looking for more consistent releases of Linux. Red Hat seems to be one Linux vendor that's providing that stability. We're working with Red Hat. They seem to be the most serious.


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