Its Time for Open Storage Standards

Opinion: The storage professional's frustrating routine of working with proprietary APIs and noninteroperable equipment doesn't have to be.

Whether in networking, operating systems or document interchange—you name it—open standards have advanced the development of technologies wherever they have appeared. By lowering barriers to entry and reducing buyers concerns about vendor lock-in, open standards promote competition and accelerate product adoption.

Its time for vendors to accelerate the development of storage management standards and open up their proprietary management APIs. This will give IT managers the ability to manage heterogenous storage and eliminate their redundant investments in parallel storage management systems. In addition, proprietary approaches to SANs have kept this highly useful technology out of the hands of small-business IT users.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read about the formation of open-source storage community Aperi.

Right now, the APIs for every storage array are different. What interoperability there is depends on individual vendors selectively sharing proprietary management APIs. Although the Storage Networking Industry Association and its SMI-S (Storage Management Initiative Specification) standard are a step in the right direction, progress by this organization has been unacceptably slow.

SNIA created SMI-S in 2002 to try to establish common management standards for storage hardware. Since then, however, new approaches to storage, such as CAS (content-addressed storage), have come onto the scene, leaving the SMI-S standard in a perpetual state of catch-up.

Frustration has grown to the point where a powerful subset of SNIA vendors including IBM, Sun, Cisco and Engenio has started the Aperi group. The group has set the goal of releasing an open-source management framework and APIs to improve communication between hardware and management applications.

The Aperi group has been relatively quiet since it was first announced in October but promises a more definitive announcement of its intentions in 90 days.

Unfortunately, vendors such as EMC, HP and Symantec that already have competitive products in the storage management arena have shown little interest in joining their Aperi brethren.

Even if the Aperi group should have sought more forthrightly to include these vendors—EMC, in particular—these vendors should realize that an open-source storage management environment, where IT managers can feel free to invest without fear of lock-in, will increase adoption of all SAN and storage management products, including their own.

Whats more, open storage standards would save vendors precious R&D dollars. Instead of vendors needlessly expending energy developing proprietary components in their storage management suites, they could lower prices or invest in other, higher-value realms of innovation.

In short, the storage professionals frustrating routine of working with proprietary APIs and noninteroperable equipment doesnt have to be. We call on all vendors to join the Aperi initiative and then to move with all deliberate speed to establish clear and workable standards.

Long-suffering IT professionals deserve the benefits of this kind of cooperation: choice of vendor, greater innovation and lower prices.

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