Pushing the "open source" idea deeper into computing, several companies led by IBM Corp. are teaming up to develop programs for letting big businesses uniformly manage their increasingly vast warehouses of data.

The companies are forming a group known as Aperi (search), which will attempt to free up the bottlenecks that can occur when a business has bought tape and disk storage systems (search) from a variety of vendors.

Generally, each storage vendor supplies its own data-management software (search), sometimes making it hard for companies to seamlessly move the information around and integrate it with their businesses.

"It can turn into a real nightmare," said analyst Charles King of Pund-IT Research.

Aperi's roster includes such leading hardware and software companies as Cisco Systems Inc., Computer Associates International Inc., Brocade Communications Systems Inc., Network Appliance Inc., McData Corp., Fujitsu Ltd. and Engenio Information Technologies Inc.

But just as notable is the list of companies that are missing, among them EMC Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Symantec Corp.

Data storage has a standards-setting organization with wide participation, the Storage Networking Industry Association.

But until now the field has not had a true open-source initiative. The launch is a sign that the traditionally bland sector will be an important battleground in an age churning out mind-bending amounts of online transaction records, databases and assorted other digital detritus.

For IBM, the project is one of several in which the company has opened up a technology system in hopes outside collaborators will help drive a market forward.

Big Blue's open-source efforts stretch from Linux-based computer servers to certain aspects of its Power microprocessors and WebSphere business software.

Jim Stallings, IBM's vice president for intellectual property and standards, said Aperi is not meant to be a shot across the bow of storage leader EMC or other vendors, which he said were approached about joining.

Because Aperi will build on the work of the Storage Networking Industry Association to develop new data-management programs, he said he expects Aperi's membership to grow.

However, there's reason to see Aperi as a direct challenge to EMC.

King, the analyst, pointed out that EMC "has done very well with building a portfolio of storage-management applications that have continued to take market share."

"IBM would like to be a leader in this space," King said.

And EMC spokesman Michael Gallant said his company was not invited to join.

"We have the highest regard for creating industry standards, and we were completely perplexed that we were not notified or given the opportunity to engage in this proposed initiative," he said.