IBM Leads Open-Source Storage Effort

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IBM and eight other storage vendors are teaming up to form an open-source organization initially called Aperi, Big Blue announced Tuesday. The companies intend to work together to develop common storage software to manage different vendors' systems, making it easier for users dealing with disparate storage systems. The software will be made available free of charge.

The Aperi name comes from the Latin word meaning "to open." The vendors will contribute code to the Aperi effort, with IBM making the first donation of some of its storage infrastructure management technology, according to the company. The group will be managed by an independent, nonprofit organization with a multivendor board of directors, with more details to emerge shortly about the organization and the composition of the board.

Open-Source Effort

Aperi will be modeled after the Eclipse consortium set up by IBM in conjunction with other vendors to handle open-source projects to create development tools and frameworks for building software. Eclipse was spun out from IBM in early 2004 to become an independent, nonprofit organization called the Eclipse Foundation.

IBM's partners in Aperi are Brocade Communications, Cisco, Computer Associates, Engenio Information Technologies, Fujitsu, McData, Network Appliance, and Sun Microsystems. This is a roll call of some but not all of the leading storage vendors. Missing are EMC, Hewlett-Packard, and Symantec.

Aperi intends to use existing open-storage standards, including the Storage Management Initiative Specification developed by the Storage Network Industry Association (SNIA), according to IBM.

"One of the last pillars of proprietary technology is about to fall," Jim Stallings, vice president of intellectual property and standards at IBM, said at the conference call announcement of the project. He pointed out that unlike many other areas of software, storage management has held off from embracing open-source technology. "You're now witnessing the convergence of open source and storage," he added.

Expects Expansion

Stallings said the Aperi work is being done in collaboration with SNIA, with all the current Aperi members also being members of SNIA.

"This will end up being a release of code that will embody SNIA standards," he said. Both he and Jamie Gruener, Tivoli storage market manager for IBM, stressed that Aperi is in the beginning stage of operation, with many decisions still to be made.

"Aperi may be a part of SNIA, it may be a separate entity," Gruener said. "We're waiting for the community to get together. Our first real business meeting will be in the next several months. We'll take the standards work that SNIA has done and encapsulate it into a platform that becomes a baseline for applications to be written on top of it."

Both men also emphasized that Aperi would welcome other members. "The door is open," Gruener said. Stallings said Aperi had talked with both EMC and HP, but they had chosen not to join at present. He does expect other storage companies to join. Discussions on forming Aperi have been going on over the past year, but became more aggressive over the last 90 days, according to Stallings.

Stallings said Aperi will release its first reference model some time next year, with all members contributing code to the effort, but he wouldn't be drawn into specifics. "I do expect 2006 to be a release year," he said. The IBM executives also wouldn't comment on what specific storage technology IBM plans to contribute to Aperi.

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