EMC Keeps i/OS Business Moving Forward with New IBM Agreement
Published: May 3, 2010
by Alex Woodie
Co-opetition is alive and well in the world of high-end System i storage, thanks to a renewal of the technology agreement between EMC and IBM. Last week, the two technology titans agreed to a five-year extension of their landmark 2006 agreement, which promises EMC access to low-level protocols needed to support the System i's proprietary storage architecture with its line of Symmetrix and Clariion SAN arrays as well as its virtual tape libraries and hardware-based replication offerings.
As the only independent provider of external direct access storage devices (DASD) for System i servers, EMC holds a unique spot in the i/OS community. A large System i shop that is moving toward a storage area network (SAN) has only two choices: IBM with its DS8000 and XIV line of enterprise storage arrays (via the Virtual I/O Server) or EMC with its Symmetrix or Clariion arrays. (Slower tape interfaces are used for connecting System i servers to third-party disk-to-disk [D2D] or D2D2D appliances.)
Prior to the landmark 2006 agreement, EMC did what it had to do to support its gear on the System i platform. While little has been made public about exactly what EMC had to do to support AS/400 and iSeries gear, and what IBM did to contest it, suffice it to say that IBM was not happy about EMC getting into some of its prized System i accounts.
Instead of getting into a legal kerfuffle or embarking upon a microcode war using program temporary fixes (PTFs), IBM did right by its customers--who hold plenty of sway with Rochester via the Large User Group--and entered into a five-year licensing agreement in March 2006 that gave EMC access to the proprietary technology it needed to allow its SAN arrays to serve as external DASD for System i servers. In exchange for being allowed to continue to service its customers and chase new accounts, EMC paid IBM a licensing fee, but the exact amount has never been disclosed.
With less than year before the old agreement was up, IBM and EMC last week announced that they have tacked another five years onto the initial five-year agreement, which keeps the two parties working together other until March 2016.
There were also some changes with the new agreement, according to EMC's Rick Aguiar, who holds the title of IBM Power System i business development manager. "We renegotiated that and expanded on the relationship a bit," he says via email. While not getting too specific, Aguiar says there are some "interesting changes" to i/OS and the Power Systems environment that will enable some new solutions in this space, particularly around IBM's VIOS technology, blade-based Power servers, and other areas.
New solutions are coming, but in the meantime, EMC is fully supporting its current gear on i/OS 7.1 and the Power7 line of servers, says Aguiar, who returned to EMC last year after a short hiatus at an EMC business partner. VIOS is currently supported on the Symmetrix VMAX and Clariion arrays, and EMC's line of hardware-based replication offerings, TimeFinder and SRDF, also support i/OS 7.1. The company's virtual tape library (VTL) offering also runs on the new operating system and hardware, Aguiar confirms.
EMC did not have to do much to prepare for Power7, largely due to the fact that there have been no big changes to the storage architecture between Power6 and Power7. Also, as part of the 2006 agreement, EMC is a participant in IBM's early release programs, which enables EMC to prep its gear in time for IBM's general availability dates.
IBM says the agreement with EMC demonstrates its commitment to open standards. "This agreement underscores IBM's commitment to open innovation and is consistent with our drive towards industry interoperability," stated Jim Herring, who holds the title of director of IBM Power Systems hardware business line, in a press release. "The ability for IBM i clients to attach IBM and/or EMC storage provides them with broad industry choices to meet their growing workload needs."
EMC is demonstrating Power7 interoperability with a VMAX Symmetrix SAN at the COMMON conference this week in Orlando, Florida. The company will be exhibiting during expo hours in booth number 708.
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