EMC Makes Case for CAS, IBM Hits 4Gbps

Monday May 9th 2005 by Clint Boulton
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EMC offers its Centera content-addressed storage system in configurations more appropriate for small and mid-size enterprises. IBM counters with its TotalStorage DS4800, a midrange storage server that pipes data at 4 gigabits per second.

Looking to help small and mid-sized companies move to the next level of fixed storage and archiving, EMC Corp. today announced that it will now offer its Centera family of content addressed storage (CAS) systems in configurations more appropriate for smaller operations.

The new Centera offer falls under EMC's Making Storage Simple campaign, which is designed to cater to SMBs (see EMC Tackles Big Need for Small Business Storage).

Today's move is meant to bring lower-capacity and lower-cost storage to companies with between 100 and 500 employees, said Roy Sanford, vice president of CAS at EMC. EMC will now offer Centera in a four-node configuration that will allow four ATA drives to function as one pool of storage. Previously, the minimum configuration for Centera was an eight-mode system.

While enhancements to the CenterStar operating environment allow for smaller configuration and less capacity, Sanford said, the same content and self-management features are available in the new offering. He said that Centera's content address storage eliminates the need for storage management by using what he describes as "digital fingerprints" to manage information. "Direct attached storage and NAS-based systems are based on where data is, CAS is based on what it is."

That is, users and network admins don't need to worry about or keep track of which directory stores a particular data file. Sanford used the analogy of valet parking in describing how digital fingerprints store data. "You're handing the keys to a trusted valet, who may park your car out back or move it around, but if you have a ticket, you can get your car."

The newer Centera configurations will be ideal for enterprises that have increasingly complex storage needs — needs that may rival those of larger enterprises — but may not need tens of terabytes, Sanford said. For example, a hospital could use it to store X-rays or any type of unstructured data. E-mail files, user manuals, employee records and sales records are also prime candidates for the Centera system.

In another change meant to lower costs, EMC will now allow Centera customers to rack-mount the four-node configuration in any industry-standard rack chassis, which means Centera products can share racks with existing server and storage systems.

The Centera four-node configuration will be available from EMC and partners this month. It offers 2.2TB of usable capacity. Sanford wouldn't comment on specific price points and would say only that the new configuration will start at less than $100,000, which is about 35 percent lower than the base list price of the previous Centera entry point.

Big Blue Has Storage News, Too
In related news, IBM moved to one-up EMC's Clariion line by unveiling a midrange storage server that pipes data at four gigabits per second.

While product upgrades are frequent among storage system vendors, IBM's TotalStorage DS4800 cracks the ballyhooed four Gb mark. Most competing machines ferry data at two Gbps.

That performance should enable the server to help high-performance computers draw from a wealth of data. This makes the DS4800 ideal for software that requires a lot of bandwidth, including applications for scientific research and financial services, said IBM spokesman Charlie Andrews.

The DS4800 will carry up to 67 terabytes of data and features new data failover software. Also new from Big Blue in the box is a "call home" function to alert IBM if there is a problem with the system. Two Ethernet ports and a switched expansion drawer round out the perks of the new machine.

Available for $54,000 on June 17, the box is priced similarly to systems from EMC and HP, but offers up to twice the sustainable throughput of those machines in certain scenarios, Andrews said.

The DS4800 works with a number of operating systems, including AIX, HP-UX, Solaris, Windows and Linux.

Clint Boulton is senior editor with Internetnews.com. Dan Muse is executive editor of internet.com's Small Business Channel, EarthWeb's Networking & Communications Channel and ServerWatch.

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