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EMC's Mark Lewis defends reverse engineering

Mark Lewis spent a fair amount of time commenting on EMC and its storage strategy when he was head of storage at Compaq and later Hewlett-Packard. Now that he's in the EMC camp as the company's chief technology officer, he admits his position has changed -- but he says his position has shifted only because the Hopkinton, Mass.-based company's direction has changed.

EMC has continued its quest for the brass ring in storage management with its "Chapter Two" announcement regarding AutoIS last week. The company unleashed eight new or newly beefed-up software tools for storage management last week, most of which included management support for storage arrays from competing vendors.

Lewis sat down with prior to the announcement to explain how he sees this new strategy of cooperation playing out.

How do you think customers view EMC's practice of reverse engineering the APIs of its competitors?
We reverse engineer in the event that there has not been an agreement [for an API swap]. Customers are going to revolt against companies unwilling to do these swaps. We'd rather swap APIs than reverse engineer. It's harder, but just as effective. We'll put in the effort if we need to. If I'm sitting in front of the customer who wants open management tools and they ask, why don't you support IBM? It's because they won't step up to the table with an API swap. Our competitors' unwillingness to swap APIs and be open in this way is going to come back and hurt them. What's the status of EMC's storage management initiative?
It's about product openness. We've broken down our AutoIS strategy into three initiatives: Infrastructure Services, Intelligent Supervision and Information Safety. We see this idea of management in storage as the most critical area that really needs more emphasis and focus from a standpoint of the supplier. Reducing cost is tied more to the management side than anything else. Many viewed the initial launch of your AutoIS strategy and WideSky initiatives as a proprietary move to become the de facto management standard in the industry. Where does EMC stand on standards like CIM and Bluefin?

We will be at or ahead of everyone on CIM as well. We still have a standards body to deal with on that and implementation time. WideSky is middleware. It's not a threat to CIM. It's not an anti-CIM statement. WideSky allows customers to use products that aren't compatible with CIM yet. Customers have legacy applications and they're not going to swap out all of their arrays for [new CIM arrays]. With AutoIS and CIM sitting in the middle as one of the layers that we're going to support in WideSky, we believe we're speeding the adoption of CIM. Prior to joining EMC I had a misconception that the positioning of EMC was WideSky against CIM. It is a piece of true software that provides conversion for these non-compliant things. You're always going to need something like this. You're going to have things that are not compliant with the standard.

Over time we will all evolve to this standard and then I can take a whole bunch of engineers writing WideSky and I can put them on writing applications. We want to be a market leader and market leaders don't wait for standards to evolve. We're going to innovate and embrace standards as they evolve. You name me a market leader that said we'll wait around, put 100% into enabling the industry and then go ahead. Have Sun, IBM and HP put more effort into developing CIM management standards than EMC?
In absolute spending -- no way. I can't speak to percentage. I think the misnomer here is that if Sun is spending more here it's for the benefit of Sun. CIM is valuable because we're spending more on management software in general. CIM would be easier for us. I believe that products will need to evolve in that the CIM/Bluefin transition will be largely, for customers, a non-event. They'll already be using tools and buying tools and arrays that have CIM built in. There will be little things that change. That's what's so funny about this. We fully support standards. If there were standards it would make our jobs easier. Storage management would be easy if we just ripped out all of the hardware and software and started new. But that's just not the case. We need to manage everything in the customers' data centers, whether this is though reverse engineering or an API swap. If the advent of CIM/Bluefin products will be a non-event, then what changes can customers expect?
A year from now when CIM/Bluefin comes out, they're going to see enhanced heterogeneous support. There's lots of interoperability work to be done. Evaluating fact from fiction is very important. Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail Kevin Komiega, News Writer Let us know what you think about the story, e-mail Kevin Komiega, News Writer


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