Sun quits IBM-backed standards group, Aperi

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Sun quits IBM-backed standards group, Aperi

Jo Maitland, News Director

Sun Microsystems Inc. announced that it has withdrawn from the Aperi open source storage management initiative started by IBM in October 2005, citing a lack of commitment on IBM's part for true collaboration.

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IBM unveiled Aperi at the Storage Networking World (SNW) conference in Orlando last year with a commitment from 10 other storage vendors, including Sun, to create open source cross-vendor storage management software. However, key players, including Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP), EMC Corp., Symantec Corp. and Hitachi Data Systems Inc. (HDS), did not join the group, and Aperi snubbed the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), the only group that's had any success at developing standards in the storage marketplace.

"Vendor-led standards are very difficult to sustain," said Brian Babineau, senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group. "IBM has the right idea with Aperi, but with competing SNIA initiatives, it will be hard to gain momentum."

At the SNW conference in Palm Beach, Calif., today, EMC, HDS, Symantec, HP and Sun announced that they will be working under the governance of the SNIA to develop a common industry standard for storage management.

According to Adam Mendoza, director of storage industry initiatives at Sun, it might not be long before other members of Aperi quit, too. They include Brocade Communication Systems Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., CA Inc., Engenio Information Technologies Inc., Fujitsu Ltd., McData Corp. and Network Appliance Inc.

"The group was formed with a voting majority wins remit and the majority voted to form under the SNIA," Mendoza said. IBM declined to comment for this story, and the other partners could not be reached for comment by press time.

"I'd be very surprised if we ever hear from Aperi again," said an industry analyst, who preferred to remain anonymous. He noted that EMC's WideSky storage management initiative went the same way. "In the end, no matter what size your footprint in the marketplace, vendor-backed standards don't work … the SNIA does, it takes some time, but it actually works."

However, vendors get frustrated with the slow progress of the SNIA, (for example, the development of the SMI-S for integrating components in a SAN has taken years), so they form their own initiatives to try and push specifications through faster. But these efforts end up being too proprietary and not enough people adopt them.

Mendoza noted that IBM's effort was hardly racing along at lightning speed. "They were still at the formulative stages, there's no infrastructure, no tangible processes, they haven't been made into a legal entity, so members couldn't attribute intellectual property [code in this case] even if we had wanted to," he said.