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Tech Heavies Push for Datacenter Standards

IBM (NYSE: IBM) is spearheading an industry alliance focused on datacenter standards and improving product interoperability, claiming the initiatives will give enterprises better technology choices and greater market opportunities to vendors.

The standards effort announced today will scan across the entire data environment, from virtualization to networks, operating systems, security and service management. The alliance plans to collaborate with the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) on storage solution specifications and Green Grid, a non-profit focused on energy efficient technology funded by AMD (NYSE: AMD), HP (NYSE: HPQ), Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ: SUNW) and IBM.

"It's not going to be enough to just embrace this. The goal is produce road maps and blue prints that provide customers real concrete guidance," Rich Lechner, IBM's VP of strategy enterprise systems, told InternetNews.com. "By promoting open standards and interfaces enterprises will be given the opportunity to pick different datacenter components that work best for their needs," he said.

IBM has pulled in technology notables, including Brocade and Citrix, as well as Emulex, Eaton, Juniper Networks, Novell, RedHat, Sun and VMware. Participating vendors will gain increased exposure to potentially new clients, and benefit from joint go-to-market activities and joint-development projects a well as exposure to early interoperability development, according to IBM.

Yet Big Blue, as well as at least one industry watcher, does not deny there are hurdles ahead.

"Yes, there are vendors that only want homogeneous environments, and want it 'their' way," admitted Lechner, noting that support from key players such as Sun, Novell and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) are important.

"We going across the layers of the datacenter. It's the breadth of this effort that puts it ahead of other standards work," he said.

Coming out in support of standards in the technology industry is a bit like saying you support motherhood and apple pie, noted one analyst. But competitive vendors won't want to do anything that jeopardizes their sales efforts.

"They may play lip service to the cause, but they won't really change their stripes," Steve Duplessie, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, told InternetNews.com.

"Standards are great for real people, and eventually for legitimate vendors, but as long as vendors can make a buck forcing people to do things their way, the only standard that really matters to them is their own," he added.

IBM seems confident the alliance will be providing standards, road maps from vendors around product compatibility, and proof points illustrating real customer success by year's end.

This is not the first standards effort IBM has spearheaded. In 2004 the vendor, along with VERITAS, led a Utility Computing Working Group with the goal to unify datacenter management, as part of The Data Center Markup Language (DCML) Organization.

"We recognize there will be pools of homogeneous resources in data environments and not everything will work together. But we believe in heterogeneous environments and the benefits the approach brings customers," said Lechner.

"Through these standards and product efforts we can bring customers better management technologies which will reduce labor costs and help them address the complexity in today's environments."

If it comes to fruition the outcome would be great, Duplessie admits. "This initiative is good, the way that not clubbing baby seals to death is good. A rational person really can't argue with it. The more ink they can get around this the better for them, and if partners can benefit from their draft, then so be it."