HP and Hitachi Partner for Storage

HP says API exchange enables 90 percent of enterprise storage management.

Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) announced last week that it agreed to exchange APIs with Hitachi Ltd. to facilitate the management of HP or Hitachi storage systems from within the context of, respectively, HP’s OpenView and Hitachi’s HiCommand management frameworks.

The API-sharing agreement is HP’s third such accord with a major storage provider. In August, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based computing giant reached a similar agreement with IBM Corp. In July, HP came to an agreement with storage giant EMC Corp. HP also acquired access to Compaq Computer Corp.’s storage APIs when it acquired that company.

According to Mark Sorenson, vice president of HP’s storage software division, his company’s API-sharing agreements give it near blanket coverage of the industry’s storage platforms.

"We now have, with those APIs and our own, the ability to manage 90 percent of storage," Sorenson contends. "We’re clearly enabling our product [OpenView Storage Area Management] to become the de facto choice to manage almost all of the storage that is out there."

Arun Taneja, a senior analyst with storage consultancy Enterprise Storage Group, says that HP’s 90 percent claim sounds "about right." Moreover, he points out, because EMC is actively feuding with Hitachi—it has litigation pending against Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) for patent infringement —it’s unlikely that either vendor will reach a similar API-sharing accord.

"Among them [EMC, IBM and Hitachi], you have a sizeable chunk of the high-end [market]. And before the merger, Compaq also had some pretty decent storage offerings," he remarks. "Given the competitiveness between EMC and Hitachi, and EMC and IBM, it’s unlikely that they would agree to [an API swap]."

HDS and IBM have agreed to a separate storage API-sharing agreement.

Existing Storage Management Tools "Primitive"

Taneja and other analysts describe the storage management landscape as "primitive." They say that there’s a lack of interoperable standards among competing storage products. The result, observes analyst Tony Prigmore, also of Enterprise Storage Group, is that IT organizations must frequently exploit several tools to effectively manage their storage resources.

"Customers don’t want to buy island solutions that interact only with a single product. That’s what they’ve got right now. They want to be able to use a single tool to manage [their storage resources]," he points out.

Proposed standards, such as the Common Information Model (CIM) and Bluefin, haven’t yet been finalized, however. CIM is an extensible standard proposed by the Desktop Management Task Force that defines a common model for the management of a variety of devices. Bluefin, on the other hand, is a storage area network (SAN) management standard that exploits CIM and is proposed by the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA). Although SNIA expects to finalize Bluefin sometime this autumn, Enterprise Storage Group’s Taneja reckons that it is two to three years away from being fully supported in storage devices and storage management software.

Therein lies the rub, suggests Christine Wallace, HDS’ senior vice president of global strategy. Although she agrees that CIM and Bluefin will ultimately provide the best solution for all vendors when they’re accepted as standards, Wallace maintains that HDS needs to offer its customers an interim manageability solution as well.

"[T]he CIM Initiative and the support for standards to enable multi-vendor interoperability is, we believe, in the final analysis the best way to go for us and for all of our customers," she stresses. "But in the short-term we do have customer requirements for manageability that we believe can be better met right now using this API exchange methodology."

Wallace made her remarks during a press conference jointly convened by HP and Hitachi to discuss the new storage API-sharing agreement. In a follow-up interview, HP’s Sorenson argument followed a similar line.

"With each of these [API-sharing] announcements, we have reaffirmed our commitment to the SMI [Storage Management Initiative] and Bluefin standards," he asserts. "[We’re] absolutely committed to these standards, [we’re] not trying to subvert them in any way, shape or form. But we know that standardization is going to take a long time."

HP is slated to unveil version 3.0 of its OpenView Storage Area Management product sometime this week. OpenView Storage Area Management v3.0 is expected to include tentative Bluefin and CIM support by the end of 2002—although near-feature-complete support isn’t expected until sometime in 2003, Sorenson adds. In the interim, he says, support for Hitachi’s Lightning and Thunder storage arrays—along with support for EMC’s Symmetrix arrays and IBM’s Shark arrays—will be incorporated into the OpenView product by November. HP also plans to support EMC’s CLARiiON arrays in the future.

For its part, HDS plans to deliver a CIM-enabled version of HiCommand by the end of 2002, says Steve East, vice president of storage integration for HDS.

There’s been some concern about the 10 percent slice of enterprise storage that HP’s bevy of API-sharing agreements doesn’t address. Sun Microsystems Inc., for example, hasn’t swapped APIs with either HP or HDS—even though it OEMs HDS’ arrays as part of its StorEdge high-end storage offerings.

Sun introduced its first CIM-based storage management product—SunStor Enterprise Storage Manager—in August, and has been a vocal proponent of Bluefin and of the CIM standard. In several published accounts, Sun representatives have expressed disappointment that HP and Hitachi aren’t more committed to incorporating CIM support into their products.

According to Gary McGuire, senior vice president of BrightStor solutions with Computer Associates International Inc. (CA), which markets storage management software that competes against products from EMC, Sun, HDS and HP, that’s not the case at all. Rather, in the absence of the Bluefin and CIM standards, McGuire suggests, vendors are doing what they can to help their customers manage their heterogeneous storage resources.

"There’s going to be a period of time once those standards have been adopted, there’s a certain amount of ramp time that’s required before they can be implemented into any specific technology. Activities like this are a recognition that the standard is there, the standard will be there, and the standard will be adopted," he asserts, noting that CA is currently incorporating support for CIM into its BrightStor management product.

CA also has "API licensing agreements in place with a number of hardware manufacturers," McGuire notes, although he declined to specify with which vendors CA had exchanged APIs.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.