Open source storage may not come to pass anytime soon

The notion of open-source storage hasn't really caught on in a big way, and I'm wondering whether it ever really will.

Yes, there are some huge Linux-based storage implementations out there, mostly at supercomputer centers and national laboratories and other major scientific or technical shops. And there are certainly dozens of vendors with Linux-based NAS, SAN or storage management software. Still and all, I don't think that the notion of open-source storage will catch on in major commercial enterprises anytime soon.

Part of this reluctance has to do with misinformation and part corporateculture. Many bigwigs in Corporate America still labor under the mistaken assumption that by using anything to do with Linux, they'll be exposing all their company's secrets to the world. Wrong-headed as it is, that's the sort of hysterical reaction that becomes ingrained, and can take years of education to right.

The corporate culture issue is even harder to overcome, in my opinion.

Buoyed by decades of CYA mentality, for-profit companies immediately suspect the open-source movement because there's "nobody to blame if things go wrong," as an IT-er in a huge financial-services company once told me. The nature of open-source development is a collaborative effort that is supposed to yield the best of what many experts have to offer, and the result is not "owned" by any one person. That makes the corporate lawyers very nervous.

All of this is not to say there won't be inroads. IBM is reportedly working on an open-source version of its Storage Tank technology, which already runs under Linux on Intel servers. The open source version will presumably let developers tinker with the code and make improvements specific to their company's requirements. If and when this happens, perhaps this will help convince corporate America that open source can be trusted for infrastructure, including storage, and to not be afraid.

We'll see.

In the meantime, speaking of open, a recent Gartner report cautioned IT organizations against relying entirely on EMC's WideSky storage-management initiative as the de facto industry standard. WideSky is completely under the control of EMC, which decides what to include and when. "For EMC to create an 'open' industry standard, it must not charge for the run time license or maintenance fee, and relinquish control of the software to a standards body or independent, non-profit software organization," the report says. Gartner's message: it's okay to use WideSky to help manage your EMC installed base. But look elsewhere, to the Storage Management Initiative or CIM, for true multi-vendor interoperability.

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