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Interlock Technology looks to ease EMC Centera data migration through XAM

The startup has sprung up to offer data migration services to EMC Centera customers, using the XAM interface to extract archived data with metadata and compliance policies intact.

Interlock Technology, a Cambridge, Mass.-based firm founded in Dec. 2008, is emerging from stealth today with an offering of data migration services for customers of EMC Corp.'s Centera Content Addressable Storage (CAS) data archiving system. Interlock claims its services keep audit trails intact for regulatory compliance purposes.

Interlock offers its services through partnerships with consulting firm GlassHouse Technologies and storage vendors NetApp Inc. and IBM Corp.

Migrating data from Centera is trickier than with other data archiving systems because Centera is an object-based storage system that uses a proprietary API to allow applications to write data to and extract data from the content repository. Even if the correct APIs are accessed, particularly on legacy Centera systems, object-by-object extraction and migration can be slow and drag out the data migration process further, according to Interlock Technology CEO Gary Lieberman.

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 "Traditional file migration methods don't work on Centera," Lieberman said. Interlock Technology claims its process can migrate up to 6 TB per day.

Centera performs its own file-level data deduplication, and Lieberman said because it's proprietary and object based, it can stymie traditional storage resource management (SRM) tools attempting to monitor and report on its contents. These factors make it difficult for customers to get a sense of how much data will need to be migrated to a new system. Thus, Interlock Technology's service process has two phases: an assessment service that generates a report about the number and type of objects in the Centera system, and the data migration service itself.

Once the assessment is done, Interlock Technology sets up an appliance running its software to perform the migration. If the customer has EMC's Centera Universal Access (CUA) gateway providing a standard file system interface, Interlock Technology reads the metadata within that file system and extracts objects from Centera using the Storage Networking Industry Association's eXtensible Access Method (XAM). If the customer is not using CUA, Lieberman said, then Interlock Technology must work with the user's new data archiving application vendor to assess the data and lay it out appropriately on the new device.

Interlock Technology claims that it can perform CAS-to-NAS, CAS-to-CAS or NAS-to-NAS migrations of Centera data while preserving application-specific filenames, paths and file system metadata, as well as retention and deletion policies applied to each object for compliance purposes. The customer receives an XML file detailing each data migration transaction, including source and target object names, migration timestamps, files system metadata, SHA-256 hash value and verification status, and target retention settings.

"Interlock strongly believes that our migration methodology meets the letter and intent of the relevant statutes, and will provide expert-level technical information and consulting to any customer who undergoes a compliance audit on a time and materials basis," Lieberman said.

Engineering firm says service sped legacy Centera data migration

Operating mostly under the radar so far, Interlock Technology claims a little more than a dozen customers. One Houston-based engineering and oil services company brought in Interlock Technology as it migrated from a five-year-old Centera to a new NetApp NAS system.

The firm's systems architect Mark O'Pella requested the company not be identified because of a policy prohibiting him from endorsing specific vendors. He said he'd been through one data migration with the Centera system about four years ago after his company sold off a division, and wasn't looking forward to another.

"Getting 1 gigabyte .pst files migrated took up to two hours, and sometimes the job would fail," O'Pella said. He said he was expecting approximately 15 MBps data transfer rate at that time, but the actual rate turned out to be about 1 MBps.

EMC has since refreshed Centera multiple times, but for O'Pella's legacy system, that point is moot. With the lease expiring, O'Pella's company purchased a new NetApp FAS to replace both the Centera and an EMC Celerra filer. Another NetApp partner tried to do the data migration and failed before NetApp brought in Interlock Technology, O'Pella said.

Because his Centera's primary function was to remove inactive data from the primary Celerra system, O'Pella said he wasn't as concerned about maintaining metadata and an audit trail for compliance. He said he used his own tool to run algorithmic checks of the data on both sides of the data migration by Interlock Technology to verify the data was transferred correctly.

Based on his previous data migration performance experience, O'Pella expected it would take months to migrate approximately 10 TB off Centera. But he said Interlock Technology completed the job in two weeks. It took one day to run the assessment service, four days to do the data migration, and the rest of the time O'Pella requested Interlock Technology stay on to monitor that the new system was working properly. "I didn't believe they would do it, but they did it," he said.

EMC doesn't see the migration issues as any failing on its part. An EMC spokesman says the vendor's Centera Virtual Archive launched last December uses XAM to give customers flexibility for allocating and re-allocating archive capacity. "For customers in regulated industries, the need for a tamper-proof archive is not a hardware issue," EMC said in an emailed statement. "It is about the levels of authentication in the software and integration with the various industry-specific applications, of which Centera has by far the most interoperability and the most simplified management to ensure compliance and retention."

Will Interlock Technology go beyond Centera?

While Interlock Technology's service can help customers migrating off Centera, it may take more for the startup to survive. Joseph Martins, managing director at Alstead, N.H.-based Data Mobility Group, said Interlock Technology must broaden its horizons beyond Centera if it is to establish itself in the information management market.

"Centera's enough for some business for a while, but they had better think of something else to do," he said. "Interlock is a small enough company that they can keep going maybe for a couple of years just focusing on Centera, but I don't see them growing much unless they move in the direction of becoming experts at getting data off multiple proprietary systems."


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