EMC opens doors wide for Centera

EMC has added standards-based NFS and CIFS support to Centera, making it an easier platform to write to for third-party software developers.

EMC Corp. on Monday announced a new software component for Centera called Universal Access, the fruits of a secret acquisition it made last year. It's not a new product, though. Originally developed by Storigen, the technology was called the Centera Application Gateway (CAG), which EMC resold. Then in November 2003, EMC acquired the company and claims it has sold Universal Access to over 200 customers.

Universal Access version 2.1 represents a way for users to access Centera objects via open systems protocols like NFS, CIFS, HTTP and FTP. Without Universal Access or CAG, applications must interface with Centera via its API, which means work for independent software vendors (ISVs).

So far, third-party software vendors have integrated 144 applications with Centera, according to EMC. Opening up access to Centera via open systems protocols should pave the way for more application developers to write programs for the Centera archive platform. Those applications may include homegrown and legacy applications, or applications that cater to industries with "a very long approval cycle," said Eric-Jan Schmidt, EMC director of product marketing for Centera. That's the case with applications for picture archiving and communications systems used in hospital radiology departments, for example.

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There are a couple of downsides to using Universal Access rather than Centera's API. For one thing, "you may see a little bit more latency," said Bill McConnell, product manager for Centera, although "in the big picture, it's probably a wash."

Another thing is that, at least for the time being, Universal Access costs extra. The development costs "are not insignificant, we still have to account for that cost … we are definitely looking at very aggressive pricing and it's not unlikely that at some point it will be a one-shot deal," said Schmidt. A single installation of the software costs $15,000 and works with Centera version 3 or Dell 2650 platforms.

Finally, Universal Access can support fewer files, or objects, than an application integrated with the Centera API -- 100 million, compared to 350 million. For the time being, that hasn't been a problem for any Centera customer, Schmidt said. "In the world of file systems, most people manage far fewer files."

While no one's come up against the 100 million file limit yet, if they do, and they will, they can mount another Universal Access file system and keep on going," he added.

Universal Access will come in three levels: basic, which provides protocol support; Retention Support, which applies retention policies for files held in Centera Compliance Edition; and Enhanced Availability, which includes Retention Support and allows two separate Universal Access applications to sync up their databases.

Universal Access will run directly on Centera version 3 nodes. It can also front Centera version 1 and version 2 systems on a Dell PowerEdge 2650.

Separately, Bus-Tech Inc. has FICON-enabled its Mainframe Appliance for Storage software, which automates and manages the archiving of data from an IBM mainframe to a Centera system.

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