EMC to marry hardware with content management

HOPKINTON, Mass. — EMC is planning in the third quarter of this year to release technology executives said will combine the best of its traditional hardware products with content management capabilities from recently acquired business units Documentum and Legato.

The storage vendor will build policies in its software products that use metadata to manage content and make the best use of storage resources based on an enterprise customer’s business needs, executives told media during a two-day briefing here. Those needs might be based on the amount of time data should be stored, the activities surrounding that data or one of the many regulatory or legislative requirements EMC says are making data storage so complex for CIOs to manage.

Mark Lewis, executive vice-president of EMC’s recently-formed Software Group, said the metadata — or data about the data, like the type of data, the format, or its author — will determine how software executes the policy. New finance data, for example, might need to be readily accessed and therefore would be placed on one of EMC’s mid-range storage servers. Other polices might dictate that data left dormant for six months or more should be placed on the firm’s Centera storage system for archiving, or simply deleted.

“”When EMC bought Documentum and Legato, a lot of people wondered what the connection was,”” Lewis said. “”You’re going to start to see why it makes sense.””

Documentum is a content management firm that has typically competed with IBM or niche content management players, while Legato made its name in the data backup and recovery space. EMC has rolled both companies into its Software Group along with its own existing open software products. Lewis and other EMC senior managers said they want to see software make up a more substantial part of its overall business, which continues to be largely based on hardware today.

Lewis said content-addressed storage was part of EMC’s information lifecycle management (ILM) strategy that dictates data should be stored depending on its value at various stages of use. The policies under development will allow EMC customers to tie their storage management more closely to business processes, Lewis said, improving audit trails and approval processes for all kinds of transactions.

Some of EMC’s Canadian customers are already taking a content-oriented approach to storage using Centera. Although Centera was released almost two years ago, last year EMC relaunched it with a Compliance Edition that allowed users to make retention choices at the object level. Since then the company has scored contract wins with a number of Canadian health-care organizations, including The Scarborough Hospital, Kingston General Hospital and Trillium Health Centre, among others.

Neil Currie, CIO at the Fraser Health Authority, said he inherited EMC as a vendor following its acquisition of Data General in 1999. Fraser Health, which serves about 1.44 million people throughout the lower mainland of British Columbia, is using EMC’s CX600 storage area network (SAN) product and Centera as part of a project to store 30TB a year in a picture archiving communications system (PACS) that is being rolled out to its acute care facilities. The project is about 50 per cent complete now and should be completely done by this time next year.

Currie said the consequences of improperly stored data weighs heavily on the minds of many in the health-care field, which is one of the business drivers behind PACS projects across Canada.

“”As soon as you have any kind of blood work, you have to keep it forever. That came out of the (tainted) blood scandal,”” he said, adding that Centera was chosen because it will minimize the management chores around the data. “”(Tape drives) require a lot of hands-on involvement. They’re costly in terms of service agreements.””

Longtime EMC customer Interior Health Authority (IHA), also in B.C., also said recently it will be using Centera to offload historical information stored in its Kamloops SAN. The IHA is in the middle of its own PACs expansion as well as an upgrade to Microsoft Exchange 2003, and director of information services Roy Southby said it will also use Legato’s DiskXtender to move some of the content into Centera. “”Instead of having tape, we will replicate it so if we have a major failure or disaster, we won’t lose all our medical images,”” said Southby, noting the dangers of such emergencies hit home during last summer’s B.C. forest fires.

Lewis said EMC is also working on technology that will allow content to be managed in a central repository but that will be distributed for access wherever a user is located.

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