Signiant delivers ‘active archive’

By Heidi Biggar

Burlington, MA-based Signiant will enter the active archive market next month with production shipments of its ActiveArchiver software. Signiant is perhaps best-known for its carrier-class data movement products, technology it developed while part of Nortel Networks; Signiant spun out of Nortel in 2000.

ActiveArchiver is a relatively high-end play, targeted at enterprises looking to make more-efficient use of storage resources by moving large volumes of fixed-content, or reference, data off primary storage devices to ATA-based secondary storage where the project data can be more easily managed and accessed.

“There’s a huge amount of [fixed-content] project data sitting on primary storage servers,” says Rich Vining, director of marketing at Signiant. Keeping fixed-content data on primary storage resources can result in out-of-control storage costs and data-protection processes, as well as put intellectual property at risk of being unrecoverable, according to Vining.

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Signiant claims that ATA-based storage devices create a significant new opportunity for users to lower overall storage costs by reserving primary disk space for mission-critical application data (e.g., OLTP, etc.), improving access to fixed data, and decreasing backup capacity and backup window demands.

ActiveArchiver software is storage-agnostic and can be used to create a single project data archive on DAS, NAS, SAN (front-ended by NAS) and, in particular, content-addressable storage (CAS) devices using processes and policies established by administrators.

Company officials say that there is a synergy between ActiveArchiver and CAS products, such as EMC’s Centera. ActiveArchiver aggregates, or collects, fixed-content project data from various sites, wraps a metadata “wrapper” around the data for future searching purposes, and then stores the data in single archive on the CAS device. Retrieving data in the archive is typically done from the CAS platform.

“Signiant’s project-based data archiving approach enables access to live and archival data across the normal functional or line-of-business boundaries,” says William Hurley, a senior analyst with the Enterprise Strategy Group consulting firm. “This capability works well with EMC’s Centera, for example, by providing extended, application-aware access to a scalable data archive that is securely sharable by many users.”

Signiant has a partnership with EMC and is looking to establish similar relationships with other CAS vendors, including Archivas, Permabit, StorageTek, and other vendors. Vining says that any overlap (e.g., finger-printing, single-instancing, compression, etc.) between ActiveArchiver and EMC’s Centera or other CAS products is minimal. “They’re complementary technologies,” says Asim Zaheer, vice president of marketing, at Archivas. “ActiveArchiver is a data mover; it directs data, organizes the content, and moves the data to a target device.”

While Archivas doesn’t currently have a relationship with Signiant, it doesn’t rule out the possibility of forming one down the road.

Although Signiant is not alone in its pursuit to help users better manage fixed-content data, its focus on project data (e.g., design, research, and development data) could be a differentiator, according to analysts. However, the company does plan to target other market segments facing similar fixed-content challenges (e.g., oil and gas, medical research, etc.) in the future. Other vendors that offer similar technologies to Signiant’s include Arkivio, Kazeon, and Njini.

Signiant says that ActiveArchiver is complementary, not competitive, with a variety of data management technologies, including information life-cycle management (ILM) and hierarchical storage management (HSM) software from vendors such as Arkivio, Atempo, CommVault, EMC Legato, Q-Star, and Stellent; product life-cycle management (PLM) and supply chain management (SCM) software from vendors such as Agile, ClearCase, MatrixOne, PTC, and UGS; and document and content management software from vendors such as EMC Documentum, FileNet, Hummingbird, and OpenText.

As examples, Signiant’s Vining says that because of its lack of a “packaging” capability, ILM/HSM software has difficulty keeping track of data over the long term, which can have significant business and compliance consequences, while document and content management software is generally focused on automating the entire development process, not granularly managing and retrieving project data.

A basic ActiveArchiver configuration-including agents, central management, and professional services-is priced from about $50,000.

This article was originally published on July 01, 2005