By Lisa Coleman
Hewlett-Packard's recent agreements to cross-license application programming interfaces (APIs) with IBM and Hitachi are an interim step for managing heterogeneous environments in the absence of a mature Common Information Model (CIM) standard, according to company officials.
However, "as standards mature and become available and ubiquitous," they are the best way for end users to deploy a single platform to manage heterogeneous environments and ultimately save money, claims Mark Sorenson, vice president of HP's storage software division.
"Standards such as Bluefin, SMI [Storage Management Initiative], and CIM, [which were] recently ratified by SNIA [Storage Networking Industry Association], are still immature," says Sorenson. "Currently, there are few implementations available, and our customers are looking for solutions to the problems they have today."
Roger Reich, head of SNIA's SMI committee, agrees that some areas of the CIM/Bluefin specifications still need work. For example, handling non-cooperating clients with locking and discovery services is one area of the specification that is immature, he says. "However, in some areas likes arrays, tape libraries, and switches, CIM and Bluefin are in pretty good shape," says Reich, adding that it may be years before all vendors build storage management products using the standards. In the interim, API agreements facilitate storage management software compatibility.
HP and IBM will cross-license APIs and command line interfaces. This will enable HP's OpenView storage management software to manage IBM's "Shark" disk arrays, while IBM's storage management software will be able to manage HP's StorageWorks Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA) and Enterprise Modular Array (EMA) systems.
"Strategically, this will accelerate the work we have under way around Bluefin and CIM," says Brian Truskowski, chief technology officer for IBM's storage systems group.
"The API agreement will allow the companies to be more effective in the implementation of standards. It will help move the industry forward at a more rapid pace toward Bluefin and CIM because we'll know more about each other's storage technology and how our APIs work."
The Hitachi-HP agreement will enable HP OpenView to manage Hitachi Lightning 9900, 9900 V, and Thunder 9200 disk arrays. Hitachi's HiCommand management framework will be able to manage HP StorageWorks XP, VA, EVA, and EMA disk arrays.
Earlier this summer, HP and EMC also signed an agreement to swap APIs, a deal that covered EMC's Symmetrix and Clariion arrays and HP's XP and VA arrays.
Meanwhile, all of the storage management software vendors continue to work on the CIM and Bluefin standards. Last month, HP shipped early versions of a CIM proxy agent in some of its software.
By year-end, HP will ship OpenView with support for arrays from Hitachi, IBM, and EMC.
Not everyone in the industry is swapping APIs, however. Sun Microsystems is going forward with CIM and recently began shipping CIM-compliant StorEdge Enterprise Storage Manager software.
"We believe the industry has to get to CIM as fast as we can," says Mark Canepa, Sun's executive vice president of network storage products. He adds that the company has created CIM "providers"--software that allows management systems to understand CIM--for all of its products.
Although Sun was the first major vendor to ship CIM-based software, a couple of start-ups are expected to begin shipments of CIM-compliant management software over the next few months. For example, StorScape plans to ship a CIM-compliant suite this month. AppIQ plans to deliver a CIM-compliant management suite in December, and Hitachi Data Systems plans to ship CIM-enabled HiCommand software by year-end.