DCT joins 'CAS pack'

By Heidi Biggar

Belgium-born DataCenter Technologies (DCT) this month announced its entry into the increasingly crowded content-

addressed storage (CAS) market with its DCT Content Director software. The software includes tools for data assessment, data migration/archive, and data protection (see "at a glance," below).

DCT joins a growing list of vendors, including Avamar, Data Domain, EMC, and Permabit, that offer CAS-based technologies for backup/recovery, archival, or both.

The release also marks DCT's formal entry into the US storage market. The company has been shipping a CAS-based backup-and-restore system—DC-Protect Appliance—in Europe for about two years and claims to have shipped product to more than 50 customers.

"DCT is a 'quasi-start-up,' " says Arun Taneja, founder and consulting analyst at the Taneja Group. "In fact, the company may have actually implemented CAS technology before EMC commercialized it with Centera."

Interestingly, EMC's Centera, like DCT's Content Director, has Belgian roots. EMC acquired much of the technology for the Centera platform from Belgian software developer FilePool in 2001. EMC shipped Centera in May 2002.

While there are a lot of similarities among the various CAS technologies on the market, there are also some key differences. For example, some vendors take a pure software approach while others combine hardware and software. Some vendors focus solely on backup/recovery, and others focus on backup/recovery and archival. And they also differ in the way they capture, deliver, index, and access data.

In general, Taneja says DCT's data-protection capabilities are more similar to Avamar's than Data Domain's, although there are some differences among all three, and DCT's archival capability is more similar to Permabit's than EMC's. However, Permabit lacks a metabase and EMC doesn't do anything about data redundancy, says Taneja.

In terms of overall maturity, DCT Content Director is ahead of the CAS pack due to its advanced indexing capabilities (it uses a distributed metabase, or metadata repository) and its use of content routing (versus RAIN [redundant array of independent nodes] technology) to move data around, according to Taneja. DCT's approach allows users to search and retrieve data more quickly and potentially will allow them to scale their environment into the petabyte range, according to the company.

"At some point there may be a question of how well RAIN-based CAS technologies will scale," says Taneja, "but we haven't reached that yet and probably won't until we hit the petabyte level."

Other Content Director features include content reduction (the company claims a 2x to 20x reduction in source data), policy-based migration, archive, backup to disk-based secondary storage; a single, unified view of secondary storage (a single name-space), flexible interfaces (e.g., CIFS, HTTP, FTP, CAS API); 400Mbps store; and the ability to replicate to off-site locations.

The Content Director software is agent-based and can be installed on any Unix, Windows, or Linux server. Two agents are currently available and can be purchased separately depending on user need (i.e., migration/archival or backup). The configuration also includes a DCT Content Router Appliance (software loaded onto a standard router) and DCT Metabase Servers (see Figure 1). The company is also exploring ways to integrate its software into intelligent switching platforms.

Figure 1: A Content Director configuration includes a Content Router Appliance and Metabase Servers.
Click here to enlarge image

The software works with any SAN, NAS, CAS, or DAS system. A content network layer (which is created by the DCT Content Director) provides a layer of abstraction between the applications on the front-end and back-end, allowing users to easily move data among primary, secondary, and tertiary storage (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: A content network layer provides a layer of abstraction, allowing users to move data among primary, secondary, and tertiary storage.
Click here to enlarge image

While initial customer interest in the technology has focused on its data migration/archival capability, company officials say interest in the backup component is increasing.

DCT's initial market focus is on OEMs, but it is also pursuing relationships with VARs and integrators.

The Taneja Group expects CAS-based solutions to account for about 300 petabytes of stored capacity by 2006, which represents a 60x increase from 2003.

At A Glance

DCT Content Director software provides the following solutions:

Data assessment tool

  • Assess extent and types of fixed content on primary storage
  • Simulate effects of data management policies

Data archive and migration

  • Move data to scalable disk-based secondary storage based on content policies
  • Migrate data between storage pools based on policies

Data protection (backup/restore)

  • Disk-based backup over LAN, WAN to central location
  • Asynchronous replication to secondary site for disaster recovery

This article was originally published on June 01, 2004