Brace yourself for storage storm

While demand for networked storage continues to rise, a new culprit is expected to take up more than half the storage resources in the not-so-distant future.

It’s called reference information – digital assets retained for active reference including electronic documents, e-mail, movies, digital x-rays and digital MRIs – and a study compiled by a storage research firm suggests that by 2004, this data will represent 51 per cent of corporate and government user information.

Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Storage Group (ESG) concluded that not only will this information take up the majority of storage space, but found that traditional storage solutions, including network attached storage (NAS) and storage area networks (SAN), do not appropriately address the unique needs of this data.

According to Peter Gerr, research analyst with ESG, reference information is typically larger in size and is accessed by a higher number of users compared to traditional alphanumeric data. In terms of storage, reference information requires specific indexing or tagging as well as ease of management, scalability, the ability for long-term data retention and application integration to enable fast retrieval of these files.

“NAS and SAN are not designed with the ability to handle these requirements,” Gerr told Network World Canada. “It really calls for a new category of disk-based storage.”

Offering its own answer to the requirements of reference information, New York-based EMC Corp. has developed a new offering that the company said can keep more data online with faster access to fixed content.

EMC Centera marks the first release of the company’s Content-Addressed Storage (CAS) technique. CAS assigns an identifier to the data so that it can be accessed no matter where it is located. Storage applications use the CAS programming interface (API) to store and locate CAS-based files.

“We took to heart the study that ESG did because we were seeing exactly the same thing in the market, in particular this transition to fixed content or reference information,” said Ken Steinhardt, director of technology analysis for EMC in Hopkinton, Mass.

“Fundamentally one of the things I think has been driving this to a large degree, even beyond just the re-purposing of the information, has been the transition of information from traditional alpha-numeric characters to digitalized images, voice and massive visual and audio media. It also takes exponentially greater storage requirements than traditional alphanumeric characters.”

Steinhardt continued that with Centera, users can generate new revenue streams from their information, scaling from single-digit terabytes to petabytes without increasing in complexity while simplifying management and reducing costs.

And for Connected Corporation, the Centera CAS solution was the ideal option for its networked storage needs. Part ASP, part software vendor, Connected, a Framingham, Mass.-based organization specializing in PC data storage and protection software and services, has deployed EMC’s Centera within its data centre to handle a plethora of information.

“You can imagine that with about 100 terabytes of data in our data centre and abut half a million customers all backing up to one particular data centre with all their PC data, storing that is a challenge,” said Robert Mossi, product manager for Connected. “With the efficiency and cost effectiveness of EMC’s Centera and the content-addressed storage, we are finding that the EMC box with its built-in redundancy and mirroring is perfect for our environment. (CAS) really reduces the time when it comes to retrieving data.”

And ESG’s Gerr concurred with Connected.

“It is really about matching the appropriate storage technology to the right type of information,” he said. “Being able to maximize the efficiency of storage is important. Reference information or fixed content is the next wave and EMC is ready for it.”

EMC’s Centera is available now and pricing begins at US$101,500. For more information visit the company online at