In its ongoing quest to be known as an independent software vendor, high-end storage hardware leader EMC Corp. on Monday announced Centera, a system of inexpensive disks for low-transaction data, as the first of its many object-based products to come.
Centera uses technology from FilePool NV, a Belgium startup EMC acquired last year, to give users the software functions of products like EMCs flagship Symmetrix device but with the cost-per-megabyte ratio of traditional tape archiving. At the rollout event in New York City, CEO Joe Tucci did not say EMC was losing business to the tape industry, but did say that Centera will likely cannibalize "a small portion" of Symmetrix sales.
With market drivers like new but infrequently accessed data that is natively digital, more companies trying end-user self-service and more government regulations about maintaining old data, the technology of storage objects—or "content-addressed storage," as EMC calls it—is analogous to a valet parking service, Chief Technology Officer Jim Rothnie said in an interview. All data objects get a 128-bit identifier, and when queries arrive, "Centera looks it up, re-runs that algorithm, and they better be the same."
The usefulness of the 128-bit name, he said, is that like data, "you like your car to come back the same way" as when its dropped off.
Another significant part of Centera is that, for the first time, EMC, of Hopkinton, Mass., will let other vendors build compliant hardware. The range is open to creativity, especially for blade-server products, Rothnie said.
"Not just any old thing" will be accepted by EMC, but "in principle, were prepared to have any innovative use," he said.
An upgrade will come later this year with a method for applications to interact with Centera and any third-party derivatives directly. The current version is available now but uses a middleware server, he said. The current 1U "pizza box" server has 640GB, with 32 boxes in a cabinet, and the cabinets can be clustered in systems of more than a petabyte, he said.
EMCs long-term plans for other uses of object-based storage technology remain unclear. Vendors like Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM and Sun Microsystems Inc. have vague but similar plans. Concepts like storage quality-of-service monitoring and hierarchal storage management are possibilities, sources have said, but "were not going to talk about that" today, Rothnie said.
Pricing begins at $101,500 for Centera hardware and $103,200 for its software, which is about $205,00 for a 5-terabyte protected (10 terabytes raw capacity) system. It scales up from there in 2.5-terabyte increments.