EMC Tackles Fixed Content Storage

Endeavoring to take a fresher market opportunity by the horns, software storage giant EMC Corp. Monday unveiled a new strategy for addressing fixed storage, which constitutes unchanging documents or images such as digital x-rays or books. Such files are incapable of being modified online and were considered too expensive to provide storage for.

The Hopkinton, Mass. outfit unleashed EMC Centera with much fanfare at a briefing in New York City Monday, promising that its new combination of hardware and software infrastructure will loom large in a fixed storage market that it pegs at topping $3 billion next year, and $10 billion by 2005.

With analysts expressing concern that Centera could very well cannibalize sales from EMC's other two top-selling storage lines, Symmetrix and Clariion, EMC Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Jim Rothnie and President and Chief Executive Officer Joe Tucci spent time trying to allay such fears. Both said they weren't afraid to disrupt the firm's other brands a little bit, noting that Centera would far outstrip anything the other product lines -- which rely on network-attached storage (NAS) or storage area network architectures (SAN) -- could offer.

"Customers have learned the hard way that simply retrofitting existing technologies to handle fixed content is a short-term and sub-optimal approach at best," Rothnie said. "EMC designed Centera to approach this problem from the ground up, resulting in a solution optimized for the fixed-content requirements of long-term retention, speed of access, petabyte scalability, application integration and ease of management."

Centera, the fruit of seven years of development, is EMC's entry into what it calls "content-addressed storage" (CAS), a break from targeting the opposite field known as dynamic, or fluid content, which is speedily updated via the Web. EMC claims fixed content makes up more than 50 percent new content worldwide. Steve Duplessie, analyst and founder of Enterprise Storage Group, said fixed content represents the next great paradigm shift for users of IT.

For those who wonder how CAS differs from its NAS and SAN brethren, CAS employs a content-based addressing system, while NAS and SAN relies on location-based methods to map data that changes. In other words, NAS and SAN data locators have the potential to be extremely complex. Because it gauges fixed content, CAS performs more simply, and therefore, EMC argues, effectively. Thus, scaling from terabytes to petabytes is easier. This presents an attractive value proposition to the enterprise.

CentraStar, or the kernel software that makes up Centera, features a content addressing intelligence that calculates a unique address based on the content of every stored object. This serves as a permanent "claim check" that applications use to retrieve objects. Unlike NAS or SAN applications, data retrieval requires no knowledge of the storage environment or physical location of the objects.

EMC will enjoy broad partnership support in its new product's infancy, as more than 30 companies have stepped up to resell Centera. Centera partners include: Agfa HealthCare, AMICAS, Artesia, Avid, Avalon, BakBone, BancTec, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, CommVault, Computer Science Corporation, Connected, Documentum, FileTek, Front Porch Digital, Fujitsu, Gauss, Hummingbird, IXOS, J&B Software, Kodak Medical Imaging, KPMG, KVS, Legato, Merge Technologies, Mobius, NICE Systems, OTG, Quest Software, Sarnoff, Scientific Software, Storigen Systems, TowerTech and Virage.

EMC Centera is available immediately, with pricing that starts at $101,500 for Centera hardware and $103,200 for Centera software, representing $204,700 for a 5-terabyte (10 terabytes raw capacity) total system configuration. Centera upgrades scale from 5 terabytes to more than one petabyte, in 2.5-terabyte increments.

EMC, the leading storage software maker again in 2001 with a 30.4 percent market share, according to statistics from Gartner Dataquest, said Centera was made possible through technology it gleaned from its purchase of Belgian storage firm FilePool last year.


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