Consortium to guide open source foray in enterprise storage

IBM is teaming with several other vendors to break down what executives called the last major place for open source to make its mark in the enterprise: Data storage.A consortium called Aperi will also include Brocade, Cisco, Computer Associates, Fujitsu, McData and Network Appliance, Big Blue announced during a teleconference. 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 the wider open source community, like the Eclipse Foundation, which was spun off last year from a consortium IBM helped set up to create open source development tools. The Aperi name comes from the Latin phrase meaning “to open.”
IBM vice-president of intellectual property and standards Jim Stalling said proprietary APIs have led to fragmentation from storage vendors, independent standalone products, creating challenges for customers.
“These are walls that serve as technical barriers that separate vendor from vendor . . . These inefficiencies not only frustrate customers, but stymie progress for solution developers,” he said. “In storage, it’s time for open source to make its mark.”
Stalling said Sun Microsystems was the most recent firm to join the consortium, while notable absences included heavy-hitters in the storage place such as EMC and Hewlett-Packard. Those firms have been invited to be part of Aperi but have yet to make any commitment, Stalling said.
Many of Aperi’s members are also part of the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), which was formed several years ago to create standards that would ease the setup and maintenance of storage area networks. Stalling said Aperi is not intended to compete with SNIA but to extend its efforts in a particular way. 
“This will be a release of code,” he said of Aperi’s mission. “It sits on top of all the work that SNIA has done. It may be that the linkage to SNIA is very close.”
IDC Canada analyst Alan Freedman said storage vendors have not traditionally embraced open source, adding that customers would likely be interested in anything that promotes interoperability between disparate storage systems. 
“Whether it’s open source or proprietary, I don’t see that being a big issue right now. It’s about getting all the vendors to standardize and open up their covers,” he said.
Stalling said the work IBM and others vendors have done in opening up source code in databases, development tools and browsers has paved the way for similar efforts in the storage space.
“When (Eclipse) was formed, there was a great debate in the industry and even in our own company about whether to form it,” he said. “It was a radical departure from our current way of thinking. When the concept of Aperi was proposed, there was no debate.”
IBM also recently announced WebSphere software products and support services to assist customers using the Apache Geronimo open source application server.

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Shane Schick
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