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EMC drops WideSky, swallows pride

It's all about standards now

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The sky has fallen over EMC's headquarters in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, and oddly enough you've hardly heard anything about it.

In late 2001, EMC unveiled WideSky. The software was the company's answer for hetrogenous storage management. WideSky was meant to bridge the gap between different hardware and software platforms, making it possible for EMC customers to manage all kinds of gear from one place.

The little catch with WideSky was that EMC was going it alone. While the other vendors where talking about a shared set of management standards, EMC stood up to say that it could pull off the task on its own. Customers need WideSky now, and we'll do that standards bit later, when we really have to.

Well, it turns out customers didn't really want WideSky just yet. After two years of nonstop marketing and chest beating, the brand is dead. Children everywhere should run. EMC has found a way to kill a figment of one's imagination.

"We're not going to use the WideSky brand anywhere in the marketplace," Mark Lewis, EMC's vice president of Open Software Operations, told SearchStorage.com last week. "What we're trying to do is make some definitive clarifications around EMC and what we're doing, and the status of SMI-S."

Lewis wasn't kidding either. EMC has removed the once vast stockpile of WideSky references from its Web site. Gone are the links to the glorious hype.

Lewis, along with the more recently acquired Mark Sorenson, once worked at HP. And it's these two executives new roles at EMC that may help explain why WideSky met such an untimely demise.

Some well-placed industry sources say that both execs scoffed at WideSky while at HP. This should come as no surprise since all of EMC's rivals jumped at the chance to criticize the company for taking a proprietary approach to storage management when standards like SMI-S were on the way.

Once at EMC, the former HP execs helped topple the house of cards. EMC management knew it had to go the standards route eventually. That's why it has played such an active role in the standards body (SNIA) overseeing SMI-S. The sales folks, however, saw the standards as a myth. The company was divided.

But a two-pronged, doublespeak approach rarely pays off in the long run, so the top brass ordered the execution of WideSky.

This move has been rumored for some time by various news outlets, but the actual death of WideSky has been met with a shocking silence. It's not everyday that a vendor has to swallow a crow the size of Texas.

To be fair, EMC does have products today that basically do what WideSky promised. Various software packages exist for managing multivendor gear. It's just that a massive cork has been shoved down a blowhole that once spewed brave, we can stand strong on our own bluster.

EMC's WideSky retreat has opened a whole new opportunity for competitors to take shots.

"It's about time," said Mark Canepa, head of storage at Sun Microsystems, in an interview at the Storage Decisions conference. "We've been telling them to drop it for a long time."

Executives from HP and Veritas also had a chuckle over EMC's miscue.

When all is said and done, the end of WideSky is still more of a marketing move than anything. EMC is going along with its API swap agenda and will give users hetrogenous management in way or another.

The end of WideSky does, however, mark a huge shift in EMC's approach to standards. Executives once warned that it would take decades for things like SMI-S to function as billed. Something changed at EMC to make them see standards in a different light, and this is likely good for users and the industry.

Rest in peace, WideSky. ®

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