EMC tips hand on data storage product roadmaps

EMC event showcases coming collaboration tools, SaaS and a clustered storage system, while showing its cards for integrating recently acquired technologies.

BOSTON -- EMC Corp. gave a sneak peek of software applications ranging from business continuity management to home storage, as well as an overview of coming storage systems today at EMC Innovation Day.

The event added detail to some of the statements made by EMC CEO Joe Tucci on the company's most recent earnings call and comes amid mounting pressure from Wall Street for EMC to show a return on more than $8 billion spent on the acquisition of more than 30 companies over the last four years.

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Tucci revealed the code names and basic descriptions of several products he said would ship in the next seven months. They include Mamba, a departmental storage box for SMBs; HomeStore, the code name for EMC's Lifeline software that so far has been packaged with a new whitebox from Intel; and Hulk and Maui, the hardware and software components that make up a Web 2.0 storage system. When pressed, Tucci indicated that Hulk and Maui form a clustered storage system.

Beyond the code names and confirmation that Hulk and Maui are clustered storage, Tucci offered little in the way of detail except to say, "It's not just a vanilla clustered file system plopped on top of hardware -- it will go way beyond just a clustered file system."

Metadata, collaboration, personalization

EMC did give more details -- and real names -- for future software applications. One of these application, Business IT Insight, will give IT and business managers a centralized view of the correlation between IT assets and business value. It will provide alerts from devices with dollar amounts for a particular device or service and uses those dollar amounts to prioritize alerts. The application will also perform predictive impact analysis of failures in order to help administrators devise timeframes for solving problems based on to their potential impact.

A second modeling program, Business Continuity Compliance, can keep track of recovery points and methods, and is similar to change management software from companies such as Akorri Inc. and Onaro Inc.

ViewFS is a new approach to file systems meant to "break out of navigating folder hierarchies," according to EMC chief technology officer Jeff Nick. In addition to providing content tags, ViewFS would make files accessible from any type of endpoint device and from diverse operating systems. The file system would also include built-in versioning and the ability to find content "in context" according to a particular project or communication with another individual.

"Metadata is going to become as important, if not more important, than the data itself," Nick said.

SMB and consumer storage plans

More multiprotocol/hybrid systems, such as the NS-20, are on the way, said Rich Napolitano, senior vice president of storage platform operations, in his presentation. To accomplish this, the group in charge of Celerra, Centera and Clariion is pooling resources through a program called EMC Community Source.

One example of this plan is containerized data services (CDS), the term EMC uses for the thin provisioning code that has been shared among engineers in order to get thin provisioning out the door at EMC on all its disk arrays. "We've unwelded [the functionality] from the chassis," Napolitano said. Snapshots, replication and data deduplication are candidates for similar unwelding.

EMC is looking to get into the consumer space much more aggressively. "There are only 1,000 customers in the Fortune 1,000, and EMC already sells to them all," said Jay Krone, director of storage platforms. "There are more than 8 million companies with 100 employees or less, and EMC has not been selling to them much at all." Krone demonstrated how the Lifeline consumer storage product can be used to control video streaming through Wii and Xbox gaming consoles, adding that EMC sees the consumer space as "where the bits [that need to be stored] are going."

Content management and archiving

Mark Lewis, formerly chief development officer at EMC, was appointed president of the Content Management and Archiving (CMA) group in early September, shortly after the group showed flagging revenues in the second quarter. Lewis said the addition of Web Services to the latest version of Documentum, D6, lays the groundwork for the application as a framework underlying "personalized UIs" for particular types of content. Lewis demonstrated one example of such a personalized UI for Documentum, a product due out in the mid-2008 called Media Center, that allows collaborative work and classification of multimedia files including photos, sketches and video.

SaaS

EMC executives plugged Software as a Service (SaaS) throughout their presentations, not surprising given the acquisition of Berkeley Data Systems in September. Tucci said the future of the enterprise is "edgeless," with shared resources from specialized companies taking over certain tasks in IT, such as backup. "It's not a matter of insourcing or outsourcing all your resources -- more like 'outtasking,'" Tucci said. The goal for EMC is to offer SaaS and prepackaged versions of all its software with full feature parity.

Analyst reaction

Although many of the analysts at the Innovation Day event applauded EMC's ideas, they also gave EMC low grades for innovation because many of the ideas discussed today are capabilities already shipping from competitors. "EMC is almost late to the party," said Robert Gray, founder of Robert Gray Direct.

Analysts also felt the information that was presented was tantalizing, but not the whole story. "I feel like they put a lot of dots up on the board and connected a few, but not all," Gray said. For example, EMC had not clarified the business use of unstructured data which Grey saw as largely targeted at consumers.

According to Illuminata Inc. principal IT advisor John Webster, the persistent rumors that he has discussed in his blog of a merger between Cisco and EMC could come true soon, which could make the whole story make better sense. "EMC talks about wanting to be an information infrastructure company, but they don't own a network," he said. "Would their overall strategy look more obvious if Cisco and EMC were one?"

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