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EMC sends WideSky to developers

Storage giant EMC yesterday announced the availability of a developer's suite for its WideSky middleware, marking another stage in the advancement of the company's automated information storage (AutoIS) initiative.

WideSky uses a collection of gathered application programming interfaces (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.

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, Brocade, Computer Associates, Microsoft and others.

"There's proof for you" that WideSky will catch on, Swatik asserted."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 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 developing into a storage software and service company over the past two years, competition leveraging WideSky against EMC is of little concern, according to Swatik.

"The risk is we are creating an environment where people can use EMC software without EMC storage [hardware]," said Swatik, adding that although such a risk existed, EMC was confident that its value-add to storage management would supersede any competition.

Some analysts have criticised EMC and WideSky as a potential 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.

EMC's executive chairman Mike Ruettgers said, "We don't see [WideSky] as proprietary," adding 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 JP Morgan Chase, 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 reconfigure 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 EMC.

Swatik said historically EMC has been "paranoid" of letting customers make mistakes 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.

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