EMC Corp. announced improvements to its Centera fixed-content archiving system, including a feature that allows dynamic partitioning of capacity as well as secure access to it.
Dubbed virtual pooling, the feature lets users carve up the capacity in Centera into virtual systems within the one physical cluster. EMC has tested the capability up to 100 logical pools, but there's no theoretical limit on this number, according to Roy Sanford, vice president of marketing at the company.
"Before, it was one big pool and everyone could see everything," said Tony Asaro, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. "Now, for example, department No. 1 can access an e-mail archive but department No. 2 cannot, which makes it inherently more secure."
The pools can be any size within the confines of the system (2.2, 4.8, 7.2, or 9.6 terabyte (TB) mirrored capacity [19.2 TB raw] per Centera cabinet) and single instancing is maintained across them, meaning that a file or object is still only physically stored once, but it can reside logically in multiple different pools.
With Centera Seek software, which EMC OEMs from Fast Search and Transfer, users with authority can search for content in each of the virtual pools or in the entire Centera.
Today, Centera does not allow users to search on the content itself, which would return search results that show what appears inside a file or document, not just the metadata information like title and size of file, although EMC is researching this capability.
"When you index a file you have to crack it and this could expose it to corruption at that point -- then is it legally admissible in a court of law?" Sanford asked. "We are approaching that technology with eyes wide open to see its impact on file integrity and the overall structure of the system."
Remote replication improvements
A new remote replication feature, in conjunction with virtual pools, enables replication of only the pools that a user wants replicated. This allows application-by-application business continuity planning, EMC said.
The company also extended the replication software to support chain and star-like configurations. Organizations can remotely replicate fixed content to a chain of three Centera systems in different locations or allow replication from up to three remote Centera systems back to a single Centera. Before, users could only replicate from site A to site B and back again.
With the increased focus on replicating Centera content over wide-area public networks, EMC might eventually have to add the ability to encrypt the data, but for now, it's passing this responsibility on to its partner, Kasten Chase.
Also missing from the product is a more intelligent way to migrate data to tape, according to some analysts. Dianne McAdam, senior analyst and partner with Data Mobility Group, said she likes StorageTek's recently announced IntelliStore fixed content archiving system because of its clear interface to tape. She said hooking up Centera to a tape library is awkward because users must use their backup application, at which point Centera loses track of the data.
IntelliStore is the newest entry in the content-addressed atorage space. EMC also faces competition from Hewlett Packard Co. with its Reference Information Storage System product; and from startups Archivas Inc. and Permabit Inc.
EMC isn't sitting on its hands, however. It recently announced a four-node version of Centera with 2.2 TB of usable capacity at $100,000, a 35% lower list price than the 8-node version. And in March, the company launched Centera Chargeback Reporter software that allows internal utilization-based billing and reporting that now extends to each pool.
Despite claiming to have well over 1,000 Centera customers and several beta users of the new software, EMC was unable to provide any reference accounts by press time.
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