HP Does Archiving Right

By Henry Baltazar  |  Posted 2006-04-24

HP Does Archiving Right

Hewlett-Packards StorageWorks RISS 1.4 appliance uses a grid architecture to deliver compliance-class archiving capabilities along with high-speed search.

Click here to read the full review of Hewlett-Packards StorageWorks RISS 1.4.


Hewlett-Packards StorageWorks RISS 1.4 appliance uses a grid architecture to deliver compliance-class archiving capabilities along with high-speed search.

With both data retention and search optimization becoming core storage management goals for IT managers, CAS (content-addressed storage) solutions like the HP StorageWorks Reference Information Storage System 1.4 have been added to the shopping lists of many enterprises.

More than just a dumb box of disks, the RISS 1.4 appliance is a formidable archive solution that packages management tools with powerful e-mail, application and file server archiving capabilities in modular appliance hardware.

HP revamps its StorageWorks portfolio. Click here to read more.

However, while the RISS 1.4 device may excel at storing messages and documents, it is a poor choice for storing files such as medical images and digital media because they will not take advantage of the RISS 1.4s indexing capabilities. Also, the RISS 1.4 is expensive in terms of per-gigabyte metrics. (Pricing starts at $112,000 for a 1.7TB unit.)

The RISS 1.4 scales using modular appliances called SmartCells, which are basically HP ProLiant-class servers. SmartCells incrementally boost the storage capacity and processing power of a RISS grid.

For redundancy, SmartCells are added to the grid in pairs, increasing storage capacity 850GB (of usable space) at a time. Storage for each SmartCell comes in the form of on-board Ultra SCSI hard drives and a RAID controller.

The RISS 1.4 can scale with as many as 250 SmartCells in a single grid, which will eventually translate to petabyte-size grids. One drawback, however, is that storage can be added only in the SmartCell format, so IT managers cant add cheaper storage to the RISS grid.

HP officials said SmartCells will increase to 1.4TB each with Version 1.4 of the RISS appliance, which is slated to become available this summer. IT managers will have the ability to use both 850GB and 1.4TB SmartCell pairs within a grid, which will allow the newer and more powerful SmartCells to be added to a grid without getting rid of legacy SmartCells.

An 850GB SmartCell also could be paired with a 1.4TB SmartCell, but youd be sacrificing the added capacity of the new cell because of mirroring.

The search is on from a hardware perspective, the RISS grid is really not much more than a big stack of servers hooked together with standard IP networking gear. The real innovation comes from the RISS software, which maintains all the content indexes within a single database and spreads searches across multiple SmartCell nodes.

The RISS 1.4 has the ability to archive a wide range of content, including e-mail messages and documents. As information is added to the archive, a unique file ID is created for the content using SHA (Secure Hash Algorithm)-1 to create a hash. The e-mail archive capabilities of the RISS 1.4 system that eWeek Labs tested were comparable to the basic functionality we have seen in solutions like Enterprise Vault from Symantec.

E-mail archiving solutions tend to cater to Microsoft Exchange implementations, and the RISS 1.4 is no exception. Exchange e-mail is moved into the RISS archive using the MAPI (Messaging API) protocol.

IBM Lotus Domino is also supported, and messages stored on Domino e-mail servers are sucked up by a Domino gateway appliance that feeds the content into the RISS system for indexing and storage. (We did not perform tests using Domino.)

RISS does a pretty good job of integrating with Microsoft Outlook. An MSI (Microsoft Windows Installer) file needs to be pushed out to clients; this file adds a search bar, tombstones (graphical markers labeling archived content) and offline caching functions to Outlook.

The RISS 1.4 appliances archive functions blend in pretty well with Outlook, so only minimal retraining should be required for users. The offline cache allows mobile users to access messages in the RISS archive when they are on the go.

For sites drowning in a sea of .pst (Personal Storage Table) files, RISS offers import capabilities for reeling this content back into the corporate fold and off laptops and desktops.

Next Page: Archive profiles


Archive Profiles

RISS has two basic user profiles for the e-mail archive: The profile for users who need to be monitored for compliance reasons archives all messages and implements retention rules; with the profile for standard users, IT managers can tailor archive rules for specific needs (such as messages of a certain size or messages to or from a specific user or company).

License fees will be cheaper for compliance user accounts, but IT managers can probably save more money using standard user accounts with carefully crafted archive rules. (HP declined to provide exact pricing.)

Click here to read about how HP is banking on continuous protection for storage.

During tests, the RISS 1.4s content discovery features were easy to use and quite speedy. The RISS 1.4 has a handy quarantine repository in which compliance officers can store the results of previous queries.

The HP StorageWorks FMA (File Migration Agent) is available for customers that want to add data to the grid; pricing starts at $2,400 per server.

FMA, which currently supports only Windows servers, allows IT managers to create archive policies for moving content to the RISS grid. In terms of functionality, its ability to perform file-level replication is similar to what we have seen from other vendors, including Xosoft.

As you would expect in a CAS solution, the RISS 1.4 has SIS (Single Instance Storage) capabilities, ensuring that multiple copies of the same message or document are not stored on the RISS grid.

However, with the RISS 1.4, a small change (a couple of bytes or so) in a document will cause the creation of a new document. HP officials said data deduplication functionality will be added to Version 1.5 of RISS to improve storage efficiency. (For example, if a single word in, say, a 16MB PowerPoint presentation were changed, future versions of RISS would keep track of the change instead of creating a new 16MB version of the file.)

When data in the RISS expires, the SmartCells delete the file and use Department of Defense-level file shredding to make sure that the file cannot be recovered at a later date.

HP officials have stated that XAM (Extensible Access Method) will be supported as the standard evolves. The JSR-170 standard also may be supported down the road, but HP has made no commitment as yet.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.

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EMCs Centera The market-originating CAS product that other vendors are still trying to catch up with (www.emc.com)

Permabits Compliance Vault Permabit has an OEM agreement with StorageTek, a subsidiary of Sun Microsystems (www.permabit.com)

Senior Analyst Henry Balta-zar can be reached at henry_baltazar@ziffdavis.com.

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