EMC Shifts Into Second Gear

Storage vendor targets new virtualization, management.

A unique form of storage virtualization and a new systems management technology will highlight EMC Corp.s software plans for next year.

According to officials of the Hopkinton, Mass., company, the moves will come under the banner of infrastructure services and represent the second part of EMCs three-part AutoIS plan, begun in October 2001.

The first tier was intelligent supervision, led by EMCs ControlCenter software and WideSky middleware. The final piece will incorporate ongoing work in backup technologies, said Chris Gahagan, EMCs senior vice president for storage infrastructure services, in an interview at the companys Cambridge Software Development Center here last week.

Capabilities for virtualization, or the management of disparate storage as one logical group, will ship as a major upgrade of EMCs PowerPath software, used for managing connections among applications, servers and storage, Gahagan said. The new version is due by the end of next year, he said.

The software will come as a preinstalled option in Brocade Communications Systems Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc. models of EMCs Connectrix storage switch family, Gahagan said. A second version will be available for switches that dont support network-resident software.

"Were only going to put enough software on this switch to control the routing," with metadata stored on arrays, Gahagan said. By doing so, users will have the control of an in-band solution but without the performance sacrifice, he said.

In addition, "Itll have its own native SMI [Storage Management Initiative] provider," Gahagan said, referring to the Storage Networking Industry Associations version of the evolving Common Information Model for management tasks.

Users have knocked many of EMCs core storage management products, such as ControlCenter, for being too proprietary when launched. But this virtualization effort could help the storage vendor overcome that reputation, users said.

"I would use virtualization if it is truly virtualization," said Ashish Nadkarni, senior engineer at Computer Sciences Corp., an El Segundo, Calif., integration and outsourcing company. CSC has well over a petabyte of data, much of it on EMC-powered SANs (storage area networks). However, in helping to run the features, "to me it is another way of saying well sell you more hardware," Nadkarni said.

Seeds of EMCs virtualization agenda will be planted this fall and move toward the systems management arena early next year, Gahagan said. The fall launch of PowerPath 4.1 includes a built-in volume manager, plus a feature called Mobility to keep application data flowing if SAN components fail or are stopped for maintenance, he said. PowerPath 4.1 will ship first for so-called active-active architectures such as EMCs Symmetrix; versions of Hitachi Ltd.s 9900-series arrays; and IBMs Enterprise Storage System, known as Shark. A version of Mobility for active-passive designs such as EMCs Clariion, other Hitachi models and Hewlett-Packard Co.s Enterprise Virtual Array series will ship in the second half of next year, Gahagan said. Another point release, not yet named, will come early next year to add dynamic server provisioning.

Gahagan said the systems management is a requisite step to achieving ACSM (application-centric storage management), a concept he championed in his former job at BMC Software Inc., in Houston. ACSM dictates that storage gear should accommodate applications needs—not vice versa. But that cant happen unless application vendors have a reliable way to move data, he said.