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Firm Takes Standards Route For Compliance Vault

Centera still too costly for some

Like all financial services firms, Essex Investment Management, Boston, MA, is subject to federal regulations specifying data retention periods for electronic data. Last year, the firm embarked on a compliance initiative, starting with improved e-mail archiving.

Finding software to archive its e-mail was simple: As an existing CommVault customer, they naturally went with CommVault's DataArchiver, an add-on to the CommVault QiNetix data protection platform.

But finding disk storage that complies with SEC regulations 17a-4 was a bit more challenging. Among other requirements, the law states that records must be stored in a non-erasable, non-rewritable format, and that the quality and accuracy of the storage media recording process be verifiable.

Essex is an EMC customer, so they naturally considered its Centera Content Address Storage (CAS) system. In the end though, its price tag kept it out of the running. "For a shop of my size it was hard to swallow the price tag of an EMC for data that was just going to sit there for 7 years," says Randy Wilson, vice president of information security at Essex. A Centera with 10.2TB raw (~5TB usable) has a list price of $191,000.

Instead, Essex decided to go with a solution from Cambridge, MA-based Permabit, whose Permeon software turns generic servers and storage into a compliant CAS system. Last month, Permabit announced Permeon Compliance Vault, which builds on the Permeon Reference Vault software, but adds support for regulations such as the SEC's 17a-4, Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPAA. An entry-level 2TB Permeon bundle lists for $60,000, or $30/GB.

As a Dell shop, Essex bought the software from Permabit layered on top of Dell PowerEdge 2650 and 650 servers, with about 800GB of storage. Going forward, Wilson likes the fact that he is free to run Permabit software on whatever hardware platform he chooses.

Another thing Wilson likes about the Permabit solution is that it presents itself as an NFS volume, which makes it compatible with just about any application. Not so for EMC's Centera: For an application to use Centera as its data store, it must write to Centera's API.

Was Centera's proprietary API a factor in Wilson's decision to go with Permabit? "It was and it wasn't," he says. On the one hand, CommVault DataArchiver writes to Centera, so the point is moot for now. But going forward, a proprietary API "limits me to vendors who have actually partnered with EMC." Given EMC's recent acquisitions (e.g., Legato and Documentum), "I'd be very surprised if they didn't start severing links with others," says Wilson.

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