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An Open Source Eye on Storage Management

UPDATED: A consortium of some of the biggest vendors in the high-tech industry has formed to work on a common storage software management platform, something of a Holy Grail in the space to date.

Called Aperi, a Latin expression meaning "to open," the group includes Brocade Communication Systems, Cisco Systems, Computer Associates, Engenio Information Technologies, Fujitsu Limited, IBM, McData and Network Appliance.

The companies' common goal is to give customers greater flexibility and choice in the way they manage their storage environments, which are typically made of hardware and software from several vendors.

Jim Stallings, vice-president, intellectual property and standards for IBM, said on a conference call that technical barriers, such as application programming interfaces (APIs) , have separated vendor from vendor, hardware from software and fabric from machinery.

"This has created fragmentation between developers and independent storage management products, and this way has created major problems for customers," Stallings said.

Aperi will base its methodology on the popular Eclipse Foundation, taking an open approach to building a common platform for managing all brands of storage systems, Stallings added.

Just as member companies do in Eclipse, Aperi participants will contribute code to help build interoperable storage applications.

Also, like Eclipse, Aperi will be managed by a non-profit organization. Members will work together to develop the platform and offer it free. The consortium will announce details about the organization, which will include a multi-vendor board of directors, at a later date.

IBM will donate part of its storage infrastructure management technology to the open source community. Other members will also donate some of their intellectual property.

"We will use this collective code to establish the first implementation of Aperi's reference base for this storage management platform," Stallings said.

On the call, it was noted that HP and EMC were absent from the list of members. Stallings said those companies were invited and pointed out that any company who wants to join is welcome.

"Yes, we have talked to EMC, HP and others who are not on the list and for a variety of reasons they have chosen not to join or to delay their participation," Stallings said.

EMC had a different story.

"We were surprised that EMC was first informed of the proposed initiative after IBM had already briefed the press, reflecting a consortium without EMC's inclusion," the company said in a statement. "EMC remains committed to looking at all standards proposals, but we cannot take a stance on the proposed initiative at this time."

IBM Hatches Lightweight App Server

IBM has been active on other open source fronts.

The Armonk, N.Y., company IBM unveiled WebSphere Application Server Community Edition (WAS CE), essentially a light weight, open source application server to help make application creation easier for Java developers.

The software is designed to provide mid-sized businesses, departments and business partners with a piece of software to test and deploy a service-oriented architecture (SOA) with no upfront costs.

WAS CE is 90 percent based on core open source technology from the Apache Geronimo application server. But it also includes technology from Gluecode Software, which IBM acquired in May, said Scott Cosby, IBM's Gluecode transition executive.

Available later this year for free, the new software supports the Apache Tomcat Web server and will also include IBM's Cloudscape database, which is based on the open source Apache Derby Project, he said.

"This marks the next step in the transition to bring Gluecode into the IBM WebSphere branded family," Cosby said. "It's also a natural evolution to the maturity of the underlying open source project."

Offerings such as WAS CE are good for the open source community, but it could also lead to other revenue streams for IBM. Customers that desire technical support can choose from a variety of WAS CE support services for $900 per server for one year.

In general, IBM has helped stimulate the high-tech economy with its open source ventures.

Just yesterday, it pledged royalty-free access to its patent portfolio for the development and implementation of selected open health care and education software standards built around Web services, electronic forms and open document formats.

That came months after IBM opened up 500 software patents to developers of open source software so they can develop without fear of legal reprisals.