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Rivals HP, Hitachi Exchange Storage APIs

By Clint Boulton

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In a sign that two major storage competitors are loosening up a bit to better accommodate customers, Palo Alto's HP and Tokyo's Hitachi Tuesday agreed to cross-manage each other's storage arrays through the exchange of application programming interfaces.

Under the terms of the agreement, for which financial terms were not revealed, HP now has the wherewithal to manage Hitachi Freedom Storage Lightning 9900 and 9900 V Series and Thunder 9200 Series storage arrays within the HP OpenView Storage Area Management software product. In turn, Hitachi may manage the HP StorageWorks XP and VA disk arrays, HP StorageWorks Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA) and HP StorageWorks Enterprise Modular Array (EMA) storage systems within the Hitachi HiCommand Management framework.

The cross-platform access granted by each company to each company would not likely have happened a couple of years ago. But amid all the financial belt tightening, analysts and industry watchers have said it would be beneficial for storage rivals to loosen the grasp of their software systems to give them synergy that may boost their respective businesses. Storage interoperability, it is believed, will be the key to hitting the sweet spot of customers in the enterprise.

The symbiotic exchange of APIs is an interim step toward standards-based interoperability being led by the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) in an effort called the Storage Management Initiative (SMI). SMI is based on Bluefin technologies and provides a common management interface for all components in a storage area network (SAN), including disk arrays, switches, host adapters and servers.

Both firms feel Tuesday's move is an exercise of their commitment to Bluefin and SMI.

"This agreement with Hitachi is more proof that HP is fully committed to providing interoperable solutions with all leading storage vendors in order to make storage area management as easy as possible," said Mark Sorenson, vice president, Storage Software Division, HP Network Storage Solutions. "Customers will be able to use HP OpenView software as the key to dramatically reduce the cost of managing storage in a heterogeneous environment."

It seems Sorenson is not overstating HP's belief in interoperability as a key driver in the storage area management field. HP inked an almost identical deal in July with the largest storage software maker -- EMC.

As for Hitachi, Naoya Takahashi, division president of the Japanese firm's Disk Array Systems Division, said: "This API exchange is a short-term solution, which will shortly be followed by our CIM (Common Information Model) based products. Meanwhile, with this exchange our customers will be able to manage the broadest range of heterogeneous storage systems in the industry through HiCommand software."

Despite being rivals in a competitive market worth billions of dollars, HP and Hitachi have worked on enterprise storage together since May 1999, when the concerns inked joint technology and original equipment manufacturer (OEM) agreements for enterprise-storage subsystems. Tuesday's deal is an extension of that agreement.