EMC gives in to tape

For the first time in its history, EMC Corp. has decided to offer an enterprise-class tape library as part of its product line and will begin reselling Advanced Digital Information Corp.’s tape libraries next month.

During its annual analyst day in New York, EMC said that while the tape-library market has been flat, the technology is still useful as part of an overall information life-cycle management (ILM) strategy. In exchange, Redmond, Wash.-based ADIC will begin reselling EMC’s Clariion disk arrays.

ADIC will offer the arrays as part of its Pathlight VX system, which combines disk and tape libraries in a single integrated system.

“We’ve indicated very clearly that disk-based technologies continue to push down to where tape has been. (But) tape will still play a role for nonactive archiving or infrequently accessed data,” said Howard Elias, EMC’s executive vice-president of corporate marketing.

Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC said it will offer ADIC’s full line of libraries from the low- to midrange Scalar 24 and Scalar 100 libraries to the higher-end Scalar i2000 and Scalar 10K models with linear tape open drive technology.

John Halamka, CIO of CareGroup Inc., a longtime EMC customer, said the inclusion of tape libraries in EMC’s product portfolio will help ease the decision-making process for users. “I feel very strongly about this,” he said. “You need a general contractor for storage. The idea of saying, ‘I’m going to buy this box from EMC and that piece of back-up software from Veritas and this tape library from whoever,’ and getting it to work all together is a real challenge.”

CareGroup, a Boston-based company that operates six hospitals, uses EMC’s Symmetrix, Clariion and Centera storage arrays as part of an ILM system for storing radiology images, patient records, e-mail and data from PeopleSoft Inc.’s ERP applications. Since Halamaka already uses Storage Technology Corp. tape libraries, he said he isn’t interested in buying ADIC products through EMC.

“But having EMC be your general contractor because they’re wrapping their professional services and support around products is the most important aspect in this announcement,” Halamka said.

Elias said EMC already offers integrated functionality with ADIC products, such as automatic discovery and monitoring capability, just as it does with other partner vendors such as Louisville, Colo.-based StorageTek. But he said EMC will work to more tightly integrate its Enterprise Control Center management platform with ADIC’s libraries to automate the migration of data based on age and importance.

EMC made Thursday’s reseller announcement with little fanfare, slipping it into a full day of announcements centered around earnings projections and strategy sessions. But some users and analysts were relieved that EMC had finally made a decision to go with tape.

“Thank goodness it’s over. It’s almost anticlimactic,” said Diane McAdam, an analyst at Data Mobility Group LLC in Nashua, N.H.

McAdam said she didn’t see a lot of value in EMC reselling ADIC’s product, other than the fact that “EMC didn’t think tape was an appropriate storage medium. Now they’re saying tape is here to stay as a storage option.”