IBM-Led Storage Coalition Starts Aperi Open-Source Project

 
 
By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2006-06-28
 
 
 

IBM-Led Storage Coalition Starts Aperi Open-Source Project


An IBM-led group of 10 data storage vendors initiated an open-source project on the Eclipse Foundation community Web site June 28 to build a new API for developing software that manages storage devices and the networks in which they reside.

The group, Aperi (from the Latin, meaning "to open"), was founded in the fall of 2005 and aims to establish this new API as an industry standard and have it accepted by the SNIA (Storage Networking Industry Association), the standards organization for the data storage business.

Aperi includes Brocade Communication Systems, Cisco Systems, CA, Emulex, LSI Logic, Fujitsu, IBM, McData and Network Appliance. Novell joined the consortium June 28.

The group will build its API using the open-source Eclipse software development environment and wants to include it in the specification.

Eclipse originally was a project hatched inside IBM as a response to Sun Microsystems (thus, the name "Eclipse") and its open-source NetBeans development tools back in 2000, and its project team is still largely populated by current IBM employees in the open-source community.

With 135 member companies, Eclipse.org is an influential open-source community, comprising major technology vendors, startups, universities, research institutions and individuals. Tens of millions of its software tool kits have been downloaded and more than 1,000 third-party plug-ins have been built using them.

The Aperi platform for managing all brands of storage systems will be available free of charge.

"We believe that the open-source approach to building this standard platform will accelerate its development, and that keeping the whole process transparent and public will lead to higher-quality results in a shorter period of time," IBM Vice President of Software Standards Karla Norsworthy, in Armonk, N.Y., told eWEEK.

Two factions agree, yet disagree

Aperi does not include all the leading data storage vendors. Five others—EMC, HP, Hitachi Data Systems, Symantec and Sun—started their own as-yet-nameless coalition June 22 at Storage World in Long Beach, Calif.

EMC, the worlds largest data storage vendor, based in Hopkinton, Mass., was not invited to join Aperi; Sun, based in Santa Clara, Calif., had been a member originally but withdrew on June 21.

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The five companies, collectively representing more than half the worldwide market share for enterprise storage management software, are working together to ensure that the SNIAs SMI-S (Storage Management Initiative Specification) becomes a common, widely used industry standard—but not necessarily using the Eclipse open-source framework to build the API.

Both factions in this intra-industry squabble agree that continuing to support the 3-year-old SMI-S spec is the correct path. However, there is disagreement about how to implement what software developers ultimately will use to build this new software.

While SMI-S is the open-standard specification that SNIA members support and drive, Aperi will be the open-source implementation of that standard. By providing a tested implementation of SMI-S, which standardizes storage management software for storage hardware interfaces, Aperi aims to drive greater industry support and wider adoption of SMI-S, an IBM spokesperson said.

Next Page: Will Aperi software run only on Tivoli?

Will Aperi Software Run


Only on Tivoli?"> Sources from two members of the five-company coalition, who asked not to be identified in this story, told eWEEK that the group is wary that Aperi may want to produce storage management software within Eclipse that will run exclusively—or at least optimally—on IBMs proprietary Tivoli software management platform.

Tivoli includes business intelligence, integration, application allocation and a large number of other products; this would certainly be a potential business threat to the companies in the non-Aperi coalition.

This shouldnt be a concern, IBMs Norsworthy said.

"If a developer wants to build a plug-in or other feature on top of the SMI-S standard using the Eclipse platform, the resulting plug-in can be used in any way the developer wants—it can be sold or distributed or given away. It is completely optional for that developer to contribute the plug-in back to the [Eclipse] community," she said in reference to the Eclipse license.

As is required in most open-source licenses, if the developer were to change any of the Eclipse platform files to help build that plug-in, then those Eclipse files would be required to be given back to the community, Norsworthy added.

"I like to use the example of XML, when it first came out [in the late 90s]," Norsworthy said. "XML was approved as a W3C [World Wide Web Consortium] standard, and later there were two or three open-source implementations of it put into use. Its really up to the company itself as to whether it wants to use the open-source version of a piece of software or not use it, and its up to the individual company whether it wants to contribute back to the community what it builds on top of that open-source software."

The creation of Aperi originally was viewed by some in the industry—mainly the five companies noted above—as a reaction to the comparatively slow progress of the SNIA on its interface specification effort.

"What standards organization isnt slow-moving?" Ash Ashutosh, vice president and chief technology officer of HPs StorageWorks Division, in Palo Alto, Calif., told eWEEK. "They have to be deliberate in what they do. Anyway, we have an excellent standards set already: SMI-S 1.1, which is in just about every companys capacity management or performance management tool right now."

What the analysts say

Analysts have their own takes on the situation.

"The people behind Aperi feel that they can produce running code more quickly by forming a new group centered on an open-source project hosted in the Eclipse community," analyst Michael Cote of RedMonk, in Denver, told eWEEK.

"We all hope it will speed up the development and wide use of a storage standard and common platform. Since Aperi will be done as an open-source project, the process will be, and must be, very transparent. So well be able to tell midflight if things are going well or poorly, and avoid the Almighty Thud at the end: Consumers of Aperi will be able to cut and run if development is going too slow or poorly."

Mike Karp, senior analyst at Enterprise Management Associates, in Westboro, Mass., said he thought complications result from the interrelationships of the companies on both sides.

"The real problem has to do with business positioning more than standards," Karp told eWEEK. "Both sides will benefit from standards, but its in neither groups best interests to see a standard advanced in which the other group is more advanced. This is unlikely to quantitatively affect either side, both of which will push ahead full speed ahead with business as usual."

Fujitsu, IBM and McData also announced June 28 they intend to contribute storage management software code to the Eclipse Aperi project. IBM plans to contribute more than 1 million lines of code from its TotalStorage Productivity Center software to the proposed Eclipse project, a spokesperson said.

"SNIAs planned relationship with Aperi will include interoperability programs for SMI-S, the use of SNIA facilities for Aperi interoperability programs, and advancing current and new storage standards," Wayne M. Adams, chairman of the SNIA Board of Directors, in San Francisco, said in a statement.

"The IT industry will benefit from Aperi helping to drive SMI-S implementations, storage technologies and open standards," Adams said.

Earlier Eclipse-affiliated projects include Project Higgins (which allows people to gain more control over their digital identities), the AJAX Toolkit Framework (which simplifies the browsing experience and make it easier for users to shop, work, plan, correspond and navigate online), and the BIRT project (business intelligence and reporting software tools that help customers analyze and track loads of business data).

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