IBM, HP Cooperate On Storage Management

If you have a storage system from one vendor, and system management software from another, managing your SAN can quickly turn into a major headache.

You can’t use HP’s OpenView management software, for example, to manage a storage area network (SAN) from EMC. IBM’s storage management software can’t talk to an HP storage system.

And mixed storage environments are becoming more common all the time, according to Dianne McAdam, a senior analyst at Illuminata. “It used to be that customers went with one vendor’s solution,” she says. “Now they want to be able to mix and match, and bring in whatever storage product works best for a particular need. The days of one storage vendor owning the floor are over.”

Standards that will allow software from one company to manage storage systems from other vendors are on the way. Until they arrive, IBM and HP are working together to reduce storage management headaches for users. The two companies announced this week that they have agreed to swap APIs and command line interfaces for storage management solutions.

This will enable HP OpenView storage management software to manage IBM’s TotalStorage Enterprise Storage Server, code-named Shark, and IBM’s storage management software to manage the HP StorageWorks Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA) and Enterprise Modular Array (EMA) storage systems.

HP and EMC announced a similar code exchange last month. “Multi-vendor storage environments are a reality now,” acknowledges Mark Sorenson, vice president of HP’s Storage Software Division.

In the Works: Bluefin

These agreements let the vendors add to their existing management tools the ability to manage storage equipment from other vendors. But that’s really just a stop-gap solution, says McAdam.

For the last several years, many storage industry vendors have been working together to create common standards for managing SANs. The work is taking place under the aegis of the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), an umbrella group of more than 200 storage vendors, including major players like IBM, HP, Sun, Hitachi Data Systems and EMC.

The primary standard, called Bluefin, is based on the well-established object technology model CIM. Bluefin and CIM provide a common management interface for all components in a SAN, including disk arrays, switches, host adapters and servers.

Today, says Claude Barrera Director of technical strategy for IBM’s Storage Systems Group, “every management vendor has to write unique code for every different device type that it supports, whether it’s a disk array, tape library, switch, or host bus adaptor.”

Bluefin provides a model for each type of device. Storage devices that meet the standard would conform to the interfaces and functions that the model describes, says Barrera. “That means that management applications from IBM, HP, BMC, CA, or any other vendor, will be able to give commands to any tape library, or any disk array, and no matter what vendor they’re from, they’ll all behave the same,” he says.

Adoption of the standard should “shorten development cycles,” says McAdam, “bringing new features to customers faster. And customers will be able to plug in storage devices from any vendor, and have them work.”

CIM-enabled storage management products are expected by the end of the year. But with a lot of legacy products still in use, McAdam says, exchanging APIs for existing tools is a useful step. “The long term solution is CIM-enabled standards,” she says. “But until those emerge, HP and IBM are saying, let’s make it easier by swapping APIs. They’re trying to solve the problem for customers in the short term.”