By Ann Silverthorn
When EMC’s Centera content-addressed storage (CAS) system hit the market in 2002, customers tried it with single applications such as e-mail, imaging, etc. At the end of 2003, users started deploying Centera in multi-application environments and asked for more features. In response, EMC recently announced several software enhancements designed to help Centera better serve as a central archive for multiple applications.
EMC believes that the new features will make Centera a destination for content on production systems that should be archived, or data on microfiche, tape, or optical that should be brought online. “Customers get into trouble with legal discovery because they have data on tape, ejected tapes, archived tapes, optical platters, microfiche, and production storage. If they put all this data in a centralized archive, it will be very easy to locate,” says Sean Lanagan, director of product management at EMC.
The software enhancements address customer requirements for consolidating and unifying information archives. They’re designed to provide improved information access and security, standardized policy management (retention, protection, tagging, access, or security of data), and enhanced content replication and protection configurations.
The most notable software enhancements have been made to CentraStar, the operating system that runs on Centera. CentraStar now allows virtual pools and new replication topologies for business continuity.
Prior to virtual pools, when customers deployed multiple applications on a Centera system, all the data was stored in one pool where it was all treated the same way. This allowed seamless scaling of capacity, but didn’t allow for custom layers of security and separate handling of regulated data applications. With the software enhancements, users can now have as many as 100 virtual pools with the standard license.
Each virtual pool can be automatically tagged with metadata. Those tags can be tailored to types of applications, such as customer statement data, e-mail, or marketing collateral. They can also be tagged by the IP address of the system that wrote the data. Lanagan says that with meta-data tagging capability, administrators can query across applications.
Furthermore, if administrators run Chargeback Reporter, which is built on top of EMC’s Centera Seek module, they can charge each application for the storage it uses. Chargeback Reporter is now “pool-aware” as part of the software enhancements.
Lanagan claims that CentraStar’s automatic configuration provisions pools as users increase their capacity or grow the size of a Centera system.
Two new replication topologies form the other half of CentraStar’s enhancements and are designed for a more complete disaster-recovery plan. Replication is a premium feature on top of the base operating system. The star topology allows up to three satellite Centeras to replicate to a central Centera. Users can restore those sites selectively. The chain topology allows replication from one Centera to another and from both of those to a third system.
Centera Universal Access and Centera FileArchiver software, which like Centera Seek and ChargeBack Reporter are licensed separately, have also been enhanced. Universal Access enhancements include improved object count scalability (to 100 million objects on a single Universal Access Server) and continuous synchronization of file system content for higher availability. FileArchiver was announced in April along with EMC’s Celerra NAS product. Customers can connect the Celerra NAS gateway with the Centera on the back-end. Based on age, size, and location, data can be seamlessly archived to a Centera platform without any noticeable difference to applications writing to the NAS head.
In the CAS market, EMC competes primarily with vendors such as Hewlett-Packard and StorageTek, as well as smaller vendors such as Archivas and Permabit.