IBM Trading Blows With EMC

Big Blue recently picked up its marbles and walked away from a storage area network (SAN) management standards body led by EMC Corp., claiming the latter is not interested in open standards.

Specifically, the controversy surrounds the NUMA-Q division of IBM Corp., which makes high-end Intel Corp.-based servers that run Unix applications for data warehousing and business intelligence, and the 50 or so strong FibreAlliance standards group. The breakup should come as no huge surprise: When the NUMA-Q division joined the FibreAlliance, it was then independently owned Sequent Computer.

It also depended heavily on EMC's Symmetrix line of storage servers -- a product family now directly in IBM's storage division's crosshairs.

Glenn Sullivan, a senior product manager at NUMA-Q, sent a letter of resignation to the director of the FibreAlliance standards body dated June 21. The epistle states: "Unfortunately, the FibreAlliance never achieved its goal of gaining industry wide support in addressing the issues of interoperability and open standards for SANs..."

The letter claims that the membership of the FibreAlliance never extended to the major server and storage vendors. This resulted in "an EMC centric solution set and not a vendor agnostic initiative." IBM is better served by participating in the Storage Networking Industry Alliance (SNIA) and the Fibre Channel Industry Association (FCIA) to maintain open standards and interoperability, claims Sullivan.

The move by IBM comes after EMC's March withdrawal from the Storage Performance Council (SPC),which tests and evaluates the performance of storage devices. Sources claim that move by EMC was the straw that broke the back for Big Blue.

An EMC spokesperson put the shoe on the other foot. "IBM is backing away from industry standards," he says. "Sequent was a meaningful participant in the FibreAlliance, but IBM is clearly putting competitive issues over the need for open standards." The FibreAlliance has had considerable success in putting standards before the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) for approval, he says.

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