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Today EMC takes its first public steps down the road which leads to true heterogeneous platform management.

EMC has held the rank of world's number one storage hardware supplier. Recently the company has gone out of its way to let everyone know that, in dollar terms, it leads the way in storage management software sales as well.

However, these software tools provided functionality which only worked, for the most part, in conjunction with EMC's own storage hardware technologies.

This will change with a range of new products and existing technologies under the umbrella of EMC AutoIS that are targeted to supply enterprise storage management.

AutoIS stands for automated information storage and EMC plans to supply tools that are simple "open" and capable of assisting in the administration of a number of hardware products, including those of SAN switch suppliers and the storage hardware systems of other vendors.

As the world of storage lacks many fully functional, widely accepted and deployed standards, EMC is supplying access to an API programme that will provide "doorways into a walled garden".

It is clear that any muli-vendor storage management technology will be forced to make use of any APIs that are available in order to administer the underlying hardware components.

EMC kicks off its AutoIS roll out with a number of products launching over the course of the next ninety days. At the heart of the range is the tool EMC WideSky, which is described as storage management middleware. EMC sees this abstraction layer of the storage architecture as providing integration capabilities in a multi-vendor storage environment.

Along with WideSky will come EMC ControlCenter / Open Edition which operates as a repository of standard functions to consolidate operations through a single task oriented interface. The product also allows for tasks to be automated in a straightforward manner. ControlCenter / Open Edition supports the discovery of the storage elements and the monitoring of service levels.

The EMC ControlCenter / StorageScope product provides business level management reporting capabilities for the whole storage infrastructure. Finally EMC ControlCenter /Replication Manager supplies sophisticated automatic management of disk replication processes and tools and also manages the "instant" restore process.

In its current state, the WideSky middleware supports several file systems (including IBM AIX JFS, IBM MVS, Novell, Sun Solaris VSF, HP VX JFS, Windows NT and 2000 along with VERITAS VxFS) and leading Volume managers. WideSky also supports leading SAN platforms including those of Brocade, McData, Qlogic and Connectrix whilst the storage platforms supported include EMC's Symmetrix and Clariion, Compaq, JBOD, HP XP256 and XP512, HDS / Sun 7700E and 9900 and IBM ESS and RVA. A number of tape devices are also covered and WideSky integrates with leading enterprise management frameworks including CA Unicenter, Tivoli Netview, HP Openview and Micromuse.

An important development will see EMC use a common repository to store information on the storage infrastructure, to ensure that all applications are able to access common information about the storage resource assets. This step should make available better management information and reporting and open up the whole infrastructure to new automated processes.

This is the correct approach to managing the storage infrastructure as a whole and is exactly the type of technology that many organisations desperately need.
It is equally obvious that this is the first step down a very long path for EMC. The other major storage management companies, including the likes of Tivoli, CA, HDS, HP and VERITAS, are also pursuing the same objectives and each desires to be the vendor to supply the single management tool that will administer every storage component.

With the declared entry of EMC into the battle the space should become quite active and we can expect to see many new developments reaching the market over the next twelve to eighteen months.

EMC openly sees these announcements as just the beginning; it plans to widen platform coverage and deepen the functionality as the markets mature and as customer demands increase.

This would be a really good time for all of the interested parties in storage to get together to create and enhance the standards that are so clearly required to help everyone win. Storage management will become a very competitive arena and EMC means to own a large piece of the turf, as do Tivoli, HDS and Veritas. Watch this space for future developments.

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