Big Blue Grafts Bluefin API to Storage Server -

Big Blue Grafts Bluefin API to Storage Server

IBM isn't passing up a chance to try to steal rival EMC's thunder in the storage sector as it plans Monday to debut the Enterprise Storage Server Application Programming Interface (ESS API) for its latest high-end storage server.

The announcement will fall on the same day EMC is widely expected to unfurl the curtain on its Symmetrix 6, the latest iteration of its high-end storage platform, with new features that customers have been demanding.

Big Blue has created the ESS API to work smoothly in the Enterprise Storage Server Model 800 member of its Shark family. It is compatible with "Bluefin," the API for finding, monitoring and managing devices on a storage area network (SAN) .

Bluefin, now officially known as the Storage Management Initiative (SMI), links clients with agents. It is attractive to both customers and vendors because applications may be created using one open standard, as opposed to installing proprietary interfaces that cannot communicate with other vendors' devices.

Models that promote interoperability, such as Bluefin, are vital to the evolution of the storage industry, as enterprises look to employ a variety of hardware and software systems made by different vendors to maintain their copious amounts of data.

Enterprise Storage Group Senior Analyst Tony Prigmore said the ESS API, as endorsed by vendors such as Computer Associates, BMC, Intersan, and Tivoli, is IBM's proof that its storage products will be Bluefin compliant. One reason this is crucial, he said, is because some vendors have procurement policies with customers that say they must deliver Bluefin-compliant products.

"At the end of the day IT customers want choice," Prigmore told "Bluefin, for all of its buzz, has prompted storage vendors to do what they can to open APIs and ultimately establish standards to help users leverage framework technology."

Jim Tuckwell, marketing manager for Enterprise Storage, IBM Systems Group, said the move would make it easier for customers to manage the using Shark 800 servers in a multi-vendor storage network. Multi-vendor SANs consisting of Bluefin-enabled products, Tuckwell said, will be more reliable and secure, and easier for end users to monitor and manage.

Tuckwell said having Bluefin-compliant products while rival EMC does not gives Big Blue an advantage, but Prigmore downplayed the advantage of being a first mover, noting that EMC kicked off API sharing in the first place.

"Both vendors made commitments to standards compliance," Prigmore said. "Both vendors have engaged in API swapping with other vendors. Ultimately, there is no way we'd expect every vendor to have compliance at the same time. I think it's going to be hard to find a customer that chooses IBM over Hitachi, or Hitachi over EMC because of compliance. It's not an dealbreaker at the end of the day. More or less, everyone is in the game."

The initial release of the ESS API is available for the AIX, Linux, and Windows 2000 operating environments and supports routine LUN management activities. Tuckwell illustrated IBM's Bluefin momentum when he said revealed that partners such as CA, BMC and Tivoli support its Bluefin initiative.

IBM's storage maneuvers didn't end there, as Tuckwell told IBM is also expanding mainframe storage support for the open Linux platform, a fast-growing market segment. As Linux proliferates, Tuckwell said, so will the need for storage to accommodate those systems, especially in mainframe environments.

To that end, Shark now supports IBM eServer zSeries customers running the Linux operating system with new FICON attachment for increased throughput, FlashCopy support for copying data and Peer to Peer Remote Copy support for disaster recovery.

Prigmore approved of the expanded mainframe support and features, saying the importance of this should not be underestimated for those following IBM's business progress, given the traction the company is gaining.

Shark will also cut its teeth with 15K rpm, 72.8GB disk drives, and IBM will also support the use of 15K rpm and 10K rpm disks of the same capacity within the IBM Shark Model 800, F10 and F20 by the second half of 2003.

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