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EMC targets fixed content market with new platform

Storage giant EMC is after the fixed content market. The company debuted a new hardware and software platform aimed at protecting and storing massive amounts of unchanged data throughout its life cycle.

EMC Corp., has pulled the curtain back on a new storage architecture aimed at satisfying the storage requirements of long-lasting, unchanging digital objects.

The new architecture, which the Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC has managed to keep hush-hush even within its own walls for the past year, is called EMC Centera. It features a combination of hardware and software that is purpose-built to deal with mass amounts of what EMC has termed "fixed content." In layman's terms, fixed content is a piece of data that is used actively, but is unchanged throughout its life cycle. Examples of which are check images, contract records or digital photographs, to name a few.

Fixed content includes long-lasting, unchanging digital objects such as electronic documents, X-Rays, MRIs, e-mail, check images and broadcast content, as well as its metadata, EMC said.

"Centera is specifically designed to keep long-lasting data objects in their original form," said Roy Sanford, EMC's vice president of Enterprise Alliances.

The location-based addressing schemes found in NAS, SAN DAS, tape and optical solutions, track information based on its physical location. EMC's claim is that using these approaches makes complexity increase as the storage environment scales upward. Centera employs a content-based addressing system that cuts the complexity of locating data.

The brain of Centera is CentraStar, management software that incorporates a content addressing intelligence that assigns a unique address for every stored object. This content address sticks with the data permanently and acts as a portable claim check that applications use to retrieve objects.

The bottom line is that data retrieval is faster because it requires no knowledge of the storage environment or physical location of the objects.

In addition to content addressing, CentraStar delivers critical features for large-scale deployments including self-management, auto-configuration, self-healing, non-disruptive maintenance and upgrades, and content replication.

"All of the storage resource management is now put squarely on the shoulders of the storage repository," Sanford said.

Enterprise Storage Group Inc., founder and senior analyst Steve Duplessie said Centera is massive, intelligent storage at a bargain.

According to an ESG report, the fixed content space is the single fastest growing sector of the storage market over the next decade. Fixed content will represent 51% of new corporate and government information by 2004, according to the study.

It is designed to be used in non-transactional environments where data is static (doesn't change), but needs to be called up and used - i.e. we call this Reference Data, they call it fixed content.

"A company like EMC, who has made its fortunes off of the 'transaction' data the world has generated, has figured out that there is a whole new thing happening, and the same old storage methodologies won't cut the mustard," Duplessie said.

Fixed content has lower intrinsic value than transactional data in nature; Duplessie believes it will be huge in terms of volume.

EMC has piled on the partners early. The list of application vendors developing products for Centera includes: Agfa/Mitra, AMICAS, Artesia, Avid, Avalon, BancTec, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, Computer Science Corporation, Connected, Documentum, FileTek, Front Porch Digital, Fujitsu Services, Gauss, Hummingbird, IXOS, J&B Software, Kodak Medical Imaging, KPMG, KVS, Legato, Merge Technologies, OTG, Quest Software, Scientific Software Inc., Storigen, TowerTech and Virage among others.

Duplessie said Centera is a boon for application vendors for two reasons: they don't have to spend their application cycles managing where data is stored on disk, which makes their applications run more effectively; and the EMC box tracks data automatically.

"They don't need to pay Oracle a billion dollars to keep track of what's where," he said "the EMC box does it automatically."

Centera is available immediately and implementations scale from 5T Bytes up to over a P Byte in 2.5T Byte increments. Pricing is based on capacity. Sanford said the price tag for a 4.8T Bytes, 16-node configuration is about $205,000 - roughly 2 cents per M Byte.

Let us know what you think about the story, e-mail Kevin Komiega, assistant news editor


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