EMC improves Centera software integration through secret acquisition

SearchStorage.com has learned that EMC acquired technology from Storigen Systems late last year to improve the software integration capabilities of the Centera content-addressed storage system.

SearchStorage.com has learned that EMC Corp., Hopkinton, Mass., acquired technology from Storigen Systems Inc. late last year to fuel user acceptance of its Centera content-addressed storage (CAS) system.

Company spokesman Dave Farmer confirmed that EMC quietly purchased Storigen's intellectual property in November. "This is part of EMC's overall make-versus-buy [merger and acquisition] strategy," he said. The details of the acquisition were confidential. Farmer added: "We'll often not announce some of the smaller acquisitions for any number of reasons."

Most major document management software providers have already integrated their applications with Centera by writing to its API. EMC claims to have recruited more than 300 Centera partners and resellers and offers 100 integrated applications. But many legacy and homegrown applications have not been -- and never will be -- ported to Centera. Enter Storigen Systems. Storigen's Centera Application Gateway (CAG) lets users hook their existing fixed-content management applications into EMC's Centera CAS system. The gateway speaks CIFS and NFS on one side and Centera's language on the other, which allows users to manage both new and legacy fixed-content applications under one umbrella.

"The Storigen component played an important part in the early acceptance of Centera, as EMC was building out its community of [software vendors] to work with Centera during late 2002 and throughout 2003," said Pete Gerr, research analyst for the Enterprise Storage Group Inc., Milford, Mass. "It also enabled users to make use of Centera's CAS features without having to re-architect their legacy applications, while letting EMC offer ISVs a choice of integrating to the Centera API or not; this integration for smaller ISVs with limited engineering resources is a considerable investment in time and resources."

EMC says that between 5% and 7% of all Centera users use some form of application gateway.

"Storigen gave EMC a 'quiet' way to provide NFS connectivity to Centera for the application guys that didn't want to write to the Centera API, and gave them a way to back the thing up. Huge deal? No. Requirement? Yes," said Steve Duplessie, founder and senior analyst at Enterprise Storage Group. "There is not a ton of intellectual property in that regard, which is why EMC paid almost nothing for the assets."

According to EMC, "some" of Storigen's former employees have since joined EMC. Storigen Systems could not be reached for comment.

Among industry insiders, there is also speculation that EMC will use Storigen intellectual property to build NFS/CIFS natively into Centera.

For Randy Wilson, vice president of information technology at Essex Investment in Boston, Centera's lack of a standards-based interface was one of the factors in his decision to bypass Centera in favor of a product from Permabit Inc., a Cambridge, Mass.-based startup.

Even though Essex's compliance application -- CommVault Email Archiver -- supported Centera, its proprietary API "limits me to using who EMC has actually partnered with," Wilson says. Given EMC's recent acquisitions, "I'd be very surprised if they didn't start severing ties with some of their partners."

In short, Wilson says, "it's not great to put all your eggs in one basket."

Editor's note: Storage magazine Trends Editor Alexandra Barrett contributed to this article.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Discovery Channel explores a new storage method

Gateway allows legacy EMC customers to use Centera

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