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StorageTek joins fixed content archiving fray

StorageTek launches archiving appliance for fixed content and compliance. But can it compete with established players EMC, NetApp and IBM?

After standing on the sidewalk watching the cars whiz by for too long, StorageTek Corp. has finally entered the fixed content archiving race with a product that uses object storage to guarantee long-term authenticity of e-mail files.

StorageTek's Lifecycle Fixed Content Manager 100 appliance (LFCM 100) is designed to prevent the alteration or deletion of data for as long as a company sees fit. As part of an OEM deal, StorageTek is using Cambridge, Mass-based Permabit Inc.'s Permeon software in the system. Permeon turns generic server and storage hardware in to an object-based storage platform that can be used for compliance in lieu of WORM media such as optical disk. Furthermore, Permeon also helps users set retention and deletion policies, keep logs of data and retrieve files.

According to Julie Mirobella, senior analyst of records management and compliance infrastructure at International Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass., StorageTek has done a good job of pulling in the Permeon software to create a CAS (content addressable storage)-based system. "By giving each file its own unique address through hashing, the Permeon software will help companies ensure the WORM requirements of SEC 17a-4 and other regulations," Mirobella said.

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The product uses open standard NFS and CIFS file interfaces that "reads and writes data faster than the proprietary API interface used by EMC's Centera," according to Harvey Andruss, product marketing manager, ILMS, StorageTek.

LFCM 100 currently supports e-mail archiving applications from CommVault Systems, iLumin Software Services and iXOS Software AG. Support for Veritas Software's KVS and AXS-One Inc. is expected in the first quarter of 2005.

Andruss said that the LFCM 100 is the first member of the LFCM family, and that other members will be coming up in 90 days. Additional LFCM products will focus on adding in more storage tiers, and tying in virtualization and data protection. "The primary focus of the product right now is e-mail, but it will expand for content such as government documents and medical images," Andruss said.

LFCM 100 has an entry point of 2 terabytes (TB) and can grow to 18 TB, scaling in 2 TB increments. Andruss said that the product will be aimed at mid-size financial and government sectors -- where StorageTek already has a large footprint -- with the hopes of moving into the medical industry as the product evolves.

Compliance regulations such as SEC 17a-4 and Sarbanes-Oxley can also be kept at bay with LFCM 100. Using an object storage approach, the product guarantees that the files are not tampered with, satisfying compliance rules stating that electronic files be stored and protected for years.

Late to the party

Still, StorageTek will have to catch up to established archiving systems such as NetApp's NearStore, EMC's Centera, Hewlett-Packard Co.'s RISS and IBM's Retention 450.

"You could call it 'late,' but our customers have been crying out for this," Andruss said. "And what I've heard in the field is that customers of other archive products are not happy with speed and recoverability."

Peter Gerr, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass., sees LFCM 100 as an important milestone for StorageTek, despite coming to market after most of the other major vendors. "StorageTek sales reps now have something to sell into an increasingly important segment of the market, where they've basically been sitting on the sidelines for the past two years."

The entry-price for the Lifecycle Fixed Content Manager 100 is $74,000 for the smallest option (2.3 TB) and $435,000 for the largest option (18 TB). The product will be available Monday for customers in North America.

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