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Opinion: IBM didn't kick the standards 'puppy'

The Aperi open standards soap opera isn't anything of the sort

By Steve Duplessie
June 26, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Q: What's all the noise about Aperi? What is it and why is everyone talking about it? G.R. Munchen, Germany.

A: Why do we English-speaking folks change the name of places? How does one come up with Munich for Munchen, or Turin for Torino, and why? Do others do the same? Do the Swiss call Cleveland Clevwallawallabingbing?

I also don't have any idea why this Aperi business is causing such a stir. Sometimes this industry gets so boring, it fabricates controversy to stay awake.

Let us refer to this enthralling true story as the "Aperi Gambit." It sounds like a Clint Eastwood movie. IBM would be played by one of those bald, menacing bad guy types. Unfortunately, the real Aperi gambit is more along the lines of a documentary about the chinch bug than an action-packed thriller.

Stop worrying about it. Stop talking about it, and certainly stop listening to anyone else blather on about it (except me, of course). Almost all the news I read about it missed the entire point -- and instead focused on the soap opera issues: Does IBM hate standards? Will IBM ignore standards efforts and attempt to force everyone on the planet to adopt their way of doing things? Is it true that IBM kicked a puppy, and then was found trolling on MySpace?

No, it isn't true. None of it is true. And, to boot, it's stupid.

Aperi was started by IBM -- albeit poorly -- as an open-source initiative to promote common storage management. The theory, at least at the time, was that if vendors "donated" their interface and lower-level management code to open-source, then both users and industry could use the code to make managing storage stuff easier and more consistent. It remains an excellent theory and a fantastic objective, albeit nonrealistic.

SNIA, the Storage Networking Industry Association, the large, slow, political manifestation of the storage industry, is the keeper of the "standards" effort.

SNIA has nothing to do with open source. They are different. They are both useful, but entirely different. Being part of the Aperi, or any other open source initiative, does not mean your code shouldn't also adhere to a standard -- SMI-S-based or any other. They are mutually exclusive.

So, the news that Sun bailed on the Aperi initiative gave the rest of the IBM competitors the opportunity to punch IBM in the face publicly. "When did you stop beating your wife?" kind of stuff. They made it about standards, and that's not what it's about - really.

The fact is IBM continues to support SNIA standards, sits on many SNIA working groups and has never wavered in its support for pushing standards ahead in storage. They didn't kick the puppy.

Send me your questions -- about anything, really, to

Steve Duplessie founded Enterprise Strategy Group Inc. in 1999 and has become one of the most recognized voices in the IT world. He is a regularly featured speaker at shows such as Storage Networking World, where he takes on what's good, bad -- and more importantly -- what's next. For more of Steve's insights, read his blogs.

Read more about Data Storage in Computerworld's Data Storage Topic Center.

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