Consortium to guide open source foray in enterprise storage

IBM onTuesday said it was teaming with several other vendors to break down whatexecutives called the last major place for open source to make its mark in theenterprise: data storage.

A consortium called Aperi will also include Brocade, Cisco, Computer Associates,Fujitsu, McData and Network Appliance, Big Blue said during an internationalteleconference. The vendors will create an open source “reference platform”that would provide a foundation for applications that manage storage resources.A non-profit entity will maintain the collective code for reference to thewider open source community, not unlike the Eclipse Foundation which was spunoff last year from a consortium IBM helped set up to create open sourcedevelopment tools. The Aperi name comes from the Latin phrase meaning “to open.”

IBM vice-president of intellectual property and standards Jim Stalling saidproprietary APIs have led to fragmentation from storage vendors, independentstandalone products and challenges for customers.

“These are walls that serve as technical barriers that separate vendor fromvendor . . . These inefficiencies not only frustrate customers but stymieprogress for solution developers,” he said. “In storage, it’s time for opensource to make its mark.”

Stalling said Sun Microsystems was the most recent firm to join theconsortium, while notable absences included heavy-hitters in the storage placesuch as EMC and Hewlett-Packard. Those firms have been invited to be part ofAperi but have yet to make any commitment, Stalling said.

Many of Aperi’s members are also part of the Storage Networking IndustryAssociation (SNIA), which was formed several years ago to create standards thatwould ease the setup and maintenance of storage area networks. Stalling saidAperi is not intended to compete with SNIA but to extend its efforts in aparticular way. 

“This will be a release of code,” he said of Aperi’s mission. “It sits ontop of all the work that SNIA has done. It may be that the linkage to SNIA isvery close.”

IDC Canadaanalyst Alan Freedman said storage vendors have not traditionally embraced opensource, adding that customers would likely be interested in anything thatpromotes interoperability between disparate storage systems. 

“Whether it’s open source or proprietary, I don’t see that being a big issueright now. It’s about getting all the vendors to standardize and open up theircovers,” he said.

Stalling said the work IBM and others vendors have done in opening up sourcecode in databases, development tools and browsers has paved the way for similarefforts in the storage space.

“When (Eclipse) was formed, there was a great debate in the industry andeven in our own company about whether to form it,” he said. “It was a radicaldeparture from our current way of thinking. When the concept of Aperi wasproposed, there was no debate.”

IBM on Tuesday also announced WebSphere software products and supportservices to assist customers using the Apache Geronimo open source applicationserver.

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