EMC integrates ECM and storage

By Heidi Biggar

EMC this month will introduce a new product—EMC Documentum Content Storage Services (CSS)—that will allow its customers for the first time to define and automate storage policies for unstructured content based on the business value of that content.

"It's a first step in the ILM [information life-cycle management] direction," says Nancy Marrone-Hurley, senior analyst for the Enterprise Strategy Group consulting firm. "And it's the simplest and easiest way to integrate Documentum into EMC's platforms."

Last December, EMC acquired Documentum, a provider of enterprise content management (ECM) applications, in a stock-swap valued at more than $1 billion. The deal, which met with mixed reactions from the vendor and analyst communities, was proclaimed by EMC president Joe Tucci as a way "to advance the delivery of true information life-cycle management."

By bridging the worlds of storage and content management, EMC says its customers will now be able to get detailed information about the business value of their data, which will allow them to better control the way they ultimately allocate storage, align service levels, and account for storage utilization within their organizations.

CSS places content on the most appropriate storage device based on business policies.
Click here to enlarge image

"Organizations need to be able to classify content, and this requires a level of detailed information about the data that other storage management applications can't provide," claims Neville Letzerich, director of product marketing at EMC Documentum. "The knowledge of the content lives in the ECM software."

ESG's Marrone-Hurley says that while other products, such as Arkivio's auto-stor storage management software, do file-based movement, they aren't nearly as granular as EMC Documentum's CSS. "Documentum provides more than static attributes and that's where they differ [from some other products]."

In addition to providing basic information about the content (e.g., name, size, and date of a particular file), CSS provides detailed business-related information, such as ownership (creator, department, application, etc.), identification (file format, version, related transactions, related content, etc.), access control (security clearance, read/write privileges, etc.), compliance (retention policy, expunge date, industry regulation flag, etc.), and process control (approval status, life-cycle phase, workflow routing, etc.).

The idea is for IT administrators and business-line managers to define content-specific policies and migration rules for their unstructured content that match their business objectives and then let the CSS software monitor and migrate the content throughout the content's life cycle, according to Letzerich.

The CSS policy engine assigns specific tags to the files (based on pre-set attributes), places the content on the appropriate storage device, and then automatically moves the content back and forth among storage tiers as necessary.

An auditing capability and migration logs allow IT administrators to track content, making it possible to charge departments, divisions, etc., for actual storage usage. For richer reporting capabilities, the software can also be used with other third-party storage management software, including storage resource management (SRM) tools, according to Letzerich.

While the CSS platform touts a new policy engine, policy creation and management tools, audit events and migration logs, and API classes, which allow the software to work with non-EMC software and potentially hardware, Marrone-Hurley says the real news is the tie-in to storage. "They're taking advantage of features that were already in the Documentum software but weren't being utilized, and they're tying them to particular storage resources."

CSS supports all EMC storage platforms, but a file-system interface or custom connector is needed to support non-EMC storage arrays.

"It's a step in the right direction," says Joseph Martins, a partner at the Data Mobility Group (DMG) consulting firm. "But history has shown that companies rarely standardize on a single enterprise-wide content management platform or storage platform, let alone both. If I were EMC, I'd seriously consider developing an agnostic information-storage abstraction layer based on its CSS product. If they don't, another vendor will."

Besides CSS's limited disk support, other potential downsides include its cost and the fact that it is file-based, according to Marrone-Hurley. CSS pricing starts at approximately $50,000 and depends on the number of users and amount of content.

DMG's Martins adds: "For the record, EMC's strategy isn't new or novel. IBM began quietly integrating storage and content management services since its acquisition of Content Manager and Tivoli Storage Manager in 1994 and 1996, respectively."

This article was originally published on September 01, 2004