EMC sends WideSky to developers

Marking another stage in the advancement of EMC's AutoIS (automated information storage) initiative, the storage giant on Wednesday announced the availability of a developer's suite for its WideSky middleware, here at the Storage Management 2002 conference.

WideSky uses a collection of gathered APIs from third-party storage, server, and switch vendors to control and manage those third-party systems under a single storage management framework, be it EMC's or a framework from another vendor.

With the availability of the WideSky Developers Suite, EMC expects products developed using the suite to begin arriving in about a year, said Don Swatik, the vice president of alliances and information services at EMC, in Hopkinton, Mass.

Swatik said EMC is confident that developers and competing vendors alike will take advantage of WideSky, partially because the middleware is already a component of Oracle9i, which is shipping today. Oracle supports the WideSky initiative along with companies such as BMC Software Inc., Brocade Communications Systems Inc., Computer Associates International Inc., Microsoft Corp., and others, said Swatik.

"There's proof for you" that WideSky will catch on, said Swatik. "Oracle9i is shipping already, and we expect that to be followed by other product announcements, and many pre-announcements."

Literally any developer or storage vendor can use WideSky to create storage management products that can essentially run a variety of mixed vendor devices regardless of whether or not EMC storage hardware is present in the network.

But for EMC, which has been gradually transitioning itself into more of a storage software and service company over the last two years, competition leveraging WideSky against EMC is of little concern, said Swatik.

"The risk is we are creating an environment where people can use EMC software without EMC storage [hardware]," said Swatik, who added that although such a risk exists, EMC is confident that its value add to storage management will supercede any competition.

Some attendees here at the show criticized EMC and WideSky as potentially a sort of Trojan Horse that would enter a storage network under the auspices of an open platform, only to lock the user in to a proprietary EMC framework.

Taking questions from show goers, EMC's executive chairman Mike Ruettgers said, "We don't see [WideSky] as proprietary," and that EMC was forging ahead in an effort to establish an early, and sorely lacking, storage management standard.

"We want WideSky to be fully open and public. That's what we've been attempting to do," said Ruettgers. The thing is to set a standard early." Ruettgers likened the progress of standard-less storage management to the parallel development of Beta and VHS videotapes, of which one, Beta, eventually fell by the wayside.

With simplification and automation of storage management at the heart of AutoIS, just how much simplification and automation is needed from EMC also came into question here from technology end-users.

Kenneth English, a storage systems engineer with J.P Morgan Chase & Co. in New York, charged EMC with overprotecting the bin file system of EMC's storage software and hardware systems. English said that only EMC service personnel can configure or re-configure EMC bin files, and that if customers like himself requested they have access to manipulating the bin files, they risk losing their data protection guarantees from EMCSwatik said historically EMC has been "paranoid" of allowing customers to potentially make a mistake and lose data by setting their own bin file configurations, but added that customers can have access to bin file controls if they wish.

"When you're pushing like pioneers, you're going to get a few arrows in your back," said Swatik of the criticism levied at EMC.

Storage Management 2002 takes place March 19 through March 21 at the Chicago Hilton.

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