EMC on Software Tack

AutoIS moves company beyond hardware, gives it a new set of rivals

EMC Corp.s introduction of a new storage management software initiative next week is only the beginning of an aggressive and lengthy product rollout that will extend the company beyond the hardware business.

Conceptually unveiled this summer, EMC will officially announce next week its Automatic Information Storage (AutoIS) initiative, that includes new middleware, application integration, reporting tools and replication software that can run on non-EMC hardware.

"This makes us an ISV," said Joe Tucci, EMC president and CEO in an interview this week.

Specifically, AutoIS consists of four parts: a middleware layer called WideSky, application integration software called ControlCenter/OpenEdition, a reporting tool called Control-Center/ Storage Scope, and a disk replication and restoration manager called ControlCenter/Replication Manager.

WideSky and Open Edition are new, and EMC will give them for free to its customers.

Replication Manager combines EMCs existing TimeFinder (volume mirroring), SRDF (data replication), EDM (backup and restore), and Fastrax (Symmetrix-to-tape tool) programs with a new interface. In addition to the tight integration of TimeFinder, EMC officials said the program has been revamped to allow for more precise scheduling of backups, and, in turn, faster data recovery.

Going forward, EMC is planning to release an out-of-brand virtualization hardware and software bundle that will debut "in the not-too-distant future," said Tucci.

However, the bulk of new products will involve the Hopkinton, Mass., company retrofitting the software for its high-end Symmetrix line for non-EMC hardware, analysts and sources said.

"The important thing is that theyre reacting to the way competitors do business now, and thats a new thing for them," said industry analyst Randy Kearns, of Evaluator Group Inc., in Greenwood Village, Colo.

Next weeks news also marks the first time EMC will preannounce products. WideSky, Storage Scope and Replication Manager will be available later this year, and Open Edition will come early next year, sources said.

Though AutoIS will increasingly manage hardware from such rivals as Compaq Computer Corp., Hitachi Ltd. and IBM, there are limitations because EMC can work only with the programming information those companies make public, Tucci said.

"You can do a lot but not as much," he said, adding that EMC will share its application programming interfaces with rivals when they do the same. Hitachi Product Manager Kevin Sampson,in Santa Clara, Calif., said the same thing about EMC this week.

"Its got to be quid pro quo," said Sampson.

EMCs move into software will give it a new set of rivals. Among them are Hitachis new HiCommand and IBMs Tivoli Storage Management series, plus vendors such as Computer Associates International Inc., which makes BrightStor; BMC Software Inc., which makes Patrol and Mainview; and Veritas Software Corp., which makes SANPoint.

For Bill Gatewood, director of IT operations at Progress Energy Inc., having one software package to manage a hodgepodge enterprise storage infrastructure is still a dream. Gatewoods data center uses Compaq, EMC, Hitachiand IBM storage to manage several terabytes of data for 16,000 employees and 2.8 million customers.

"We are as hybrid as you can get. We are using tools from each one of the vendors, specifically for their apps to manage it all," said Gatewood, in Raleigh, N.C. "We came to the solution that we needed to get the products for each one of those environments."

Through AutoIS, he added, it "sounds like [EMC is] really boosting up the products that we need, and that is significant. I am very hopeful that the industry drives the products in that direction, but Im going to have to see it, and were going to have to validate the reliability of those products before we put them into a production environment."