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IBM recruits friends for storage standard

Storage giants will team up to put their weight behind a standard to help software and hardware play better together. HP wants none of it, however.

IBM, Hitachi, Sun Microsystems and Veritas will announce a new alliance Tuesday to advocate a standard to simplify storage system management.

The alliance is geared to support a standard called the Common Information Model--CIM, code-named Bluefin. The standard aims to make it easier to manage special-purpose networks that are used to wire together storage systems. Management software is critical to making such networks function, but proprietary controls have made it difficult for one company's software to administer another company's hardware.

To join the alliance, members must commit to shipping CIM-compliant products in 2003, said Thomas Butler, vice president for product planning and marketing at Hitachi Data Systems. The alliance will work to ensure the standard does what it's set out to do, Butler said.

"The world is littered with standards no one uses," he added.

But Hewlett-Packard criticized the effort, saying it prefers to work through the Storage Networking Industry Association that initially developed the CIM standard.

"We were invited, but we felt it was totally redundant, potentially confusing to customers, not to mention irrelevant," said HP spokesman Mark Stouse. "HP doesn't see a need to create another alliance. Basically, it's a publicity ploy."

The alliance plans to invite EMC, another major storage company, before the alliance is formally announced Tuesday, Butler said.

EMC didn't respond to a request for comment. HP, EMC, and Hitachi all are involved in patent infringement lawsuits involving storage hardware and software.

Despite the rancor, EMC, HP, IBM and others have been trading application programming interfaces, or APIs, the proprietary specifications for managing hardware.

Companies should move as quickly as possible away from the API exchanges, however, and embrace CIM, Butler argued.

"API-swapping now is a short-term stopgap," he said.