Storage industry rivals Compaq Computer Corp. and EMC Corp. on Thursday will announce plans to share their application programming interfaces with each other, a move that could open the door for other competitors like Hitachi Ltd. and IBM to do the same.
Sharing APIs doesnt mean the rivals products will automatically or immediately interoperate, but it will mean the realization of storage management software thats far more hardware-agnostic than exists today, as most enterprise IT shops have a mix of brands.
"The (storage) world is becoming a friendlier place," said Tony Prigmore, an analyst with the Enterprise Storage Group Inc., in Milford, Mass. "Whatll end up happening is that people will choose storage software management frameworks that theyre comfortable with. Customers can rest easy knowing the follow-on from this announcement will be products from both sides that will be more interoperable."
Specifically, Houston-based Compaqs plan calls for adding a new module, called ElementManager, into its SANworks software that will manage EMCs Symmetrix hardware. The new module will ship early next year. Soon after, Compaq will launch a similar module for EMCs midrange Clariion hardware, and modules for managing Symmetrix and Clariion in SANworks virtualization, network management and volume management software, said Don Langeberg, director of marketing for storage software and solutions for Compaq, in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Meanwhile, EMC, of Hopkinton, Mass., will use Compaqs APIs and command-line interfaces to manage Compaqs hardware from within EMCs recently announced AutoIS management software, said Don Swatik, vice president of alliances and information sicences for EMC. The APIs may also integrate with EMCs upcoming virtualization hardware and software bundle.
"Our goal is to go out and address what customers and analysts have been telling us for ages. Its rare, but were happy to be part of it," Langeberg said. "EMC is now recognizing that their strategy around a proprietary solution is limited. We welcome them into the world … of interoperability."
Both companies reiterated their willingness to work with others, like Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM and Hitachi, of Tokyo.
Asked if Compaq will also share APIs with others, including IBM and Hitachi, Langeberg said, "We are going to continue to do this with … a wide number of vendors. We are certainly working with the people who dominate the storage market."
"The huge advantage is down the road," said Sam Rego, IT director at Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd., in Bolton, Ontario, Canada. "Now Im not limiting myself to just EMC storage. You can also look at some of the other enterprise management solutions and tie it in a lot cleaner."
Rego, who manages about two terabytes of data, said it will be important for the vendors to manage each others storage-area networking technology as well as the individual hardware units.
But the news doesnt mean product differentiation will end, Swatik said. Vendors could still build in features to a storage products microcode, rather than share them through software with customers who buy a rivals hardware, he said. And not all APIs are created equal: "The other guys have to show how much they really have," said Swatik, referring to the like of IBM and Hitachi.
Also on the differentiation front, the leveling created by API sharing could raise the importance of support and services revnue, analysts said. Rego agreed.
"Thats part of the reason that we stuck with EMC in the first place. The service and support have been excellent," he said.