EMC enhances Centera

By Sonia R. Lelii

EMC recently added more protocol support to its Centera content-addressed storage (CAS) system so that customers can archive data generated from applications that have not been integrated with Centera.

Centera Universal Access software, which was previously integrated into the external Centera Application Gateway (CAG), is now integrated into the Centera system. The software previously supported only CIFS and NFS, but now includes support for the file-based HTTP and FTP protocols.

EMC executives say this move targets about 10% of the Centera customer base, some of which have homegrown applications that can't be integrated with Centera. These customers use protocols such as HTTP and FTP to archive data rather than go through the pain of application integration.

Another customer segment that EMC is targeting with this announcement is Picture Archiving Communications (PAC) system developers, which design applications for the medical community. Those vendors have a long integration window because they have to endure a lengthy government approval process, and one way to bypass application integration is to use the Universal Access software.

Application integration has been one of the downsides to an otherwise successful product. Applications have to be written to Centera's APIs, which is a costly endeavor for users or third-party software developers. Peter Gerr, senior analyst at the Enterprise Strategy Group, says that has been one of the "gotchas" of Centera. "It requires integration, and it takes a lot of developer resources," he says. "So there has been a price to pay, but that price has just gotten cheaper."

But there is a tradeoff to using the Universal Access software to access Centera. According to Bill McConnell, product manager for EMC's Centera Universal Access software, those that go for the full-blown integration approach can take advantage of key features such as "location-independent" files, meaning the application doesn't have to manage the location of files. Another example of a benefit that comes with application integration is "single-instance storage."

Nonetheless, those that use Universal Access software still get benefits such as Centera's policy retention feature, content authenticity, and automatic self-healing capability for files that have been regenerated after a corruption problem.

Centera Universal Access V2.1 software is integrated on a node in the Centera cabinet, which means that users no longer have to purchase the external gateway to link application servers and Centera. "It's one less device that users have to contend with," says Gerr.

EMC will continue to support customers that use the CAG, which is technology that EMC acquired when it purchased assets from Storigen last year.

Ultimately, EMC hopes that by adding more protocol support and simplifying the hardware structure it will make Centera a more commonly used repository for fixed content rather than just a point solution for specific applications such as e-mail or digital images. For example, the extended protocol support should make Centera a viable solution for archiving data in a number of areas, including data generated through enterprise content management (ECM) applications in government organizations, voice archiving for governments and local police organizations, etc.

According to Eric Jan-Schmidt, EMC's director of marketing for Centera, more than 130 applications have been integrated with Centera through EMC's software developer program.

In addition, EMC announced that Centera is now able to archive data from mainframe applications that are not integrated to Centera Universal Access via Bus-Tech's Mainframe Appliance for Storage (MAS) for Centera product, which provides access to Centera via ESCON or FICON connections.

This article was originally published on July 21, 2004