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Storage Strategies - Thursday, April 01, 2004
The Sun Also Rises ... And Sets ... And Rises ...
By Jon William Toigo

Sun announces a development partnership with AppIQ, which offers a
combo storage resource management/SAN management product called
StorageAuthority Suite.

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for Sun Microsystems. My
earliest Web servers were Sun products. I was one of those guys who
thought that JAVA was pretty cool and was delighted when my teenage son
recently told me that he was studying it in his high school computer
programming class.

JAVA had staying power, as did its underlying concept of application
deconstruction. It was the sort of thing you expected from the
revolutionaries who dared to say that the network had become the
computer.

On the storage side, however, Sun was not quite the power house that is
was in things Web. To their credit, back in the 90s, they did help
define what a storage area network was supposed to be. Sun's Project
StoreX was every bit as visionary and its architecture was every bit as
seminal as Compaq's (Digital Equipment Corporation's) Enterprise
Network Storage Architecture (ENSA).

Unfortunately, somebody pegged StoreX to "JINI" another "J" acronym
from a company with a penchant for the letter. Unlike JAVA, nearly
everyone has forgotten about JINI, and its key backer within the
organization has long since retired.

Sun, having failed to come up with a competitive product of its own,
repeatedly OEM'ed other people's storage arrays. At the time of they
released their "Purple T3" array, a retooling of MAXSTRAT's high
performance RAID array following Sun's acquisition of that company, I
remember feeling empathy for the company when I overheard several
analysts at the launch joke that the product was Sun's fifth (and most
likely fifth unsuccessful) array entry into the enterprise space.

For some reason, Sun just couldn't seem to get it right with storage.
To be sure, they had some great ideas -- purchasing HighGround Software
was one. HighGround's SRM team was arguably the best in the business
and it showed when some talented folk from the group, such as Mark
Carlson, were given the latitude to help drive the development of the
Common Information Model (CIM) at SNIA. For a while it looked like
what Sun couldn't pull off internally, they might bring about through
SNIA's CIM group: a real storage management breakthrough.

Whatever you think of SNIA (and I have my opinions about the
organization), CIM paved the way for improved storage management in a
decentralized computing world. While it may have lost some backers
along the way, CIM continues to have its enthusiasts who labor with
little recognition to get storage platforms to work together in a
manageable fashion.

That the user community never warmed up to CIM or made CIM compliance a
must have in their hardware requirements specification is not so much a
reflection on the CIM technology as it is on the paucity of SNIA's
evangelical skills. Mention CIM (or its cousin, SMI-S) and most
storage managers' eyes glaze over. No one has managed to spin the
technology, many CIM developers would agree, so that it doesn't become
a lecture from an Object-Oriented Programming 101 class. When SNIA
higher-ups talk about it, the discussion drifts into the realm of
marketecture.

Sun's acquisition of HighGround provided them with what was, at the
time, best-of-breed management technology. Unfortunately, in the
opinion of many integrators, they squandered this edge by tailoring the
product to address the management requirements of a mostly homogeneous
Sun infrastructure. If you deployed anyone else's gear, the Sun
StorEdge Enterprise Storage Management system really didn't give you
what you needed. This classic bit of stovepipe thinking just didn't
cut it in the commodity storage world.

So, today, the big news is an announcement of a development partnership
between Sun and AppIQ. The latter, a 2001 Burlington, MA start-up,
offers a combo storage resource management/SAN management product
called StorageAuthority Suite that borrows a marketing page from BMC
Software's old Application Centric Storage Management playbook by
claiming to be "application facing." This reflects the fact that some
variants of the software provide hooks into applications such as Oracle
and Exchange Mail in order to better accommodate their storage needs.

The "Authority" part of AppIQ product moniker reflects the heavy
emphasis placed on "management via standards" in the product
architecture. The "standards" that AppIQ refers to are CIM and SMI-S,
as well as Java, J2EE, XML, and SOAP for messaging.

Apparently, CIM is a standard in AppIQ's vocabulary because the company
chairs the Desktop Management Task Force (DMTF) Architecture Working
Group (like SNIA, DTMF is a quasi-standards-making body) and because
its homegrown "CIMIQ software development platform" is, according to
its Web site, "the technology of choice for Brocade, Hitachi Data
Systems, Hewlett Packard, LSI Logic Storage Systems, McDATA, Network
Appliance, SGI, and Sun Microsystems, Inc. [where it is used] to
shorten development cycles and reduce the costs of developing SMI-S-
compliant products."

Why AppIQ wasn't simply swallowed whole by Sun has been a matter of
conjecture by analysts. Some have ventured that AppIQ is in a better
position to broker management to EMC, IBM, and other storage leaders as
a separate entity than it would be if it were a Sun subsidiary. Sun
said as much in its press release, touting the strategic relationship
as a bridge for its own ESM product to be used in a more heterogeneous
environment.

It will be interesting to see whether AppIQ gets the market penetration
it needs to stay afloat through a series of strategic partnerships.
Furthermore, it will be interesting to see whether AppIQ is any more
successful than SNIA in fomenting consumer enthusiasm around CIM and
SMI-S.

Copyright 2004 101communications LLC.
 

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Last Modified: March 9, 2008