EMCs Promise: It Will Get the APIs

If other storage makers don't want to work with EMC Corp. to share development interfaces, then EMC will target its rivals' products with reverse engineering.

If other storage makers dont want to work with EMC Corp. to share development interfaces, then EMC will target its rivals products with reverse engineering.

EMC, considered the leader in enterprise direct-attached storage, needs its competitors to share their application programming interfaces so the Hopkinton, Mass., company can make its promise of vendor-agnostic management software, called AutoIS, come true. But since EMC announced AutoIS four months ago, only Compaq Computer Corp. has signed on. Others, including Hitachi Ltd., IBM, Sun Microsystems Inc. and Fujitsu Ltd., are choosing to compete against EMC and AutoIS and not share APIs.

Discussions between EMC and its competitors for API sharing are ongoing, but theyre proceeding slowly and roughly, sources close to EMC told eWEEK. One Compaq official said the competitors may work with Compaq instead.

"You will see additional announcements of API agreements between Compaq and other major storage vendors sooner than youll see them from EMC. I think others are more comfortable dealing with us," said Mark Lewis, vice president of Compaqs enterprise storage group, in Houston.

But EMC officials say that even if API negotiations with other vendors fail, the company will still push forward to develop ways of making its software interoperate with the hardware of others.

"The lack of cooperation will in no way, shape or form derail the AutoIS initiative. We have the resources and the intelligence to do it the hard way," said Don Swatik, vice president of alliances at EMC.

Asked to define "the hard way," Swatik said, "Theres SNMP interfaces, theres XML interfaces, theres Telnet interfaces, theres CLIs [command line interfaces]. A skilled engineering organization like EMCs, whos spent a decade reverse engineering every server in the industry, knows how to utilize these interfaces and how to gain access to the products."

But those methods take far more time and effort, he said.

David Scott, president and CEO of startup 3PARdata Inc., worked with EMC as a reseller in his previous role as general manager of Hewlett-Packard Co.s enterprise storage business. Without the APIs, he said, "you cant do the job as efficiently and as effectively as you want to. Theyve never been known for their sensitivity."

Companies may be tentative about working with EMC because "theres also the fear factor that develops about whether EMC can out-execute." In HPs case, "it was always challenging to work with them, and very quickly we decided we had to move away" to Hitachi, Scott said.

Other companies could form a coalition to share interfaces with each other but not EMC if EMC pushes forward in developing its own interface technology. "Thats a very likely response," Scott said.

Even companies that are EMCs friends can have a tough time.

"Its easier for us to do it with them because were not a competitor of theirs," said Chuck Fonner, vice president at Legato Systems Inc., a specialist in backup and high-availability software, which has shared APIs with EMC for about two years. "That said, youve got to spend a lot of time upfront to make sure you know what youre talking about and using the same words. The frank discussions that have to occur for all these companies to make it work, I can see where thatd be difficult."

But, Fonner said, EMC is correct about the ability to use back-door methods if they must. "APIs make it easier, but [not having them] doesnt make it impossible. Theres a set of things weve seen people bring to market without having access to any of our products."

Still, EMC is optimistic that other vendors will want to work with them, for the good of customers. "The easy way is we cooperate, and that is absolutely, unequivocally our preferred approach," Swatik said.

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