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FileNet steps up storage integration

The company announced an open application program interface that enables policy-driven movement of documents between third-party storage devices.

FileNet Corp., a provider of software for centralizing document management, announced an upgrade to its product that enables policy-driven movement of documents between storage devices from different vendors.

EMC Corp. recently announced a similar capability with Documentum, but specific to its own hardware. The Hopkinton, Mass., storage company acquired Documentum for $1.7 billion in October 2003. Since then, analysts have speculated as to how committed Documentum will be to open standards and whether or not it will work as well with other storage vendors' products besides EMC's.

FileNet's announcement today is a signal that EMC's competitors are rallying around FileNet as the independent source for content management. "EMC has 18% of the total storage market, which means 18% of my customers use EMC, so we'll partner with them when we need to. But we want to make sure our software is tightly integrated with all the key players," said David McCann, senior vice president of products at FileNet.

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The new storage component of FileNet's P8 enterprise content management software is called Active Storage and Retrieval (ASAR) and replaces the company's Magnetic Storage and Retrieval (MSAR) optical platters for storing documents. As well as a more granular level of event-based policy management, ASAR exposes FileNet's Storage Policy Object to third-party storage providers for integration.

"We're working with Hitachi Data Systems [Inc.] on their DRU [Data Retention Utility] compliance storage implementation, and NetApp has integrated its SnapLock write once, read many software with ASAR," McCann said. Hewlett-Packard Co., Sun Microsystems Inc. and Plasmon are also said to be working with FileNet.

The combination should enable FileNet users to plan events associated with certain documents, such as automatically moving a health care record to a higher class of storage when a patient is scheduled to come into a hospital for a checkup. "The business processes drives how the information is stored," McCann said. "Until now, storage vendors were handicapped by their lack of visibility to the data … with our context associated with each piece of data -- when it was created, who created it, its value regarding regulatory compliance, the security associated with it, etc. Data can be stored based on its business value irrespective of technology or vendor platform."

Jon Toigo, managing principal and CEO of storage consulting firm Toigo Partners International LLC, said FileNet's ASAR service relieves the burden on users of "undertaking the laborious and time-consuming process of deciding what data needs to be moved where." But he said it's still a crude fix to the broader problem of having too much data.

"The file size is still enormous -- it's like the drawer in the kitchen that's full of junk but has one or two important items in it, and because of those you never throw the rest out," he said. Data de-duplication technologies will help this problem, but Toigo says getting users to cooperate with a data classification scheme is the only way to have real visibility into your content. "Anything else is a patch on the problem," he said.

FileNet claims to have around 4,000 customers worldwide. Other companies developing event-based data management in a broader context include Veritas Software Inc., Tivoli, CommVault Systems Inc. and Inmage Systems Inc., among others.

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