EMC, HP to push metered storage

EMC Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. are readying metered on-demand storage programs that for the first time automatically charge customers only for actual usage, which should help them save money and avoid having to predict future needs precisely.

While both vendors declined to comment, documents on EMC’s Web site introduced EMC’s product, called OpenScale. OpenScale meters a customer’s use of storage assets and reports it automatically to EMC so billing can be generated. The service, which is in pre-release and has been available to select customers on a deal-by-deal basis for as much as a year, covers EMC’s Celerra, Clariion and Symmetrix arrays and its Connectrix switches.

“These programs are very appealing . . . because they give you the flexibility to increase resources without having to buy a lot of equipment, not buy enough, or pay for it before you need it,” says Steve Rubinow, CTO for Archipelago LLC, an online stock market in Chicago.

Rubinow, who has EMC, HP and IBM Corp. storage in his organization, is considering a metered lease program he says HP will introduce for HP storage arrays. He says HP has talked to him about two options it has. One program – the Capacity on Demand for StorageWorks-Financing Option – lets users lease increments of storage capacity as they expect they will need it. The other program, which is unannounced, uses a metered approach, which lets it more accurately reflect usage patterns.

HP apparently has software that reads your system and tells the company how much storage capacity you are using, just like an electric meter,” Rubinow says. “Those are great approaches for us to invoke storage when we need it and pay for it then.”

Details of these financing programs are not made public, sources say, because obtaining them depends on factors such as a customer’s credit rating, account history, volume of equipment installed and the size of the potential sale. Traditionally, storage companies such as IBM and Hitachi Data Systems Corp. have offered on-demand storage services that, like HP’s, are based on customers activating increments of storage when they need them and reporting the increased capacity to their representatives.

Analysts say there are problems with this approach that are eliminated with a metered method.

“The problem with financing storage assets is you have to rely on customers’ honesty when they turn on the next gigabyte of capacity,” says Brian Babineau, a research analyst for Enterprise Storage Group Inc. “(EMC’s OpenScale) is the first real product to facilitate on-demand financing by providing accurate details of storage capacity.”

Babineau says metered storage use works the same way as an electric or water utility. Seasonal spikes in electrical consumption would be balanced with other months to reach an equitable rate that reflects the industry norm.

OpenScale makes use of EMC’s Online ControlCenter service, which places a server or workstation at a customer location to monitor usage and performance information. This server, called the Collector, polls storage devices, servers, applications and databases on the network every hour. It then gathers the information and feeds it to a data warehouse located at EMC, where the data is mined for a variety of purposes. In an OpenScale customer’s case, data is gathered, transmitted to the EMC data warehouse and then transferred automatically to EMC Global Finance so invoices can be generated based on the usage pattern.

“The capability of OpenScale is extremely vast,” says Jamie Gruener, a senior analyst with The Yankee Group. “In some ways, it’s unfortunate that EMC has not announced it, because it would help them create a great story for utility computing and the on-demand environment. With all the noise that is out there, OpenScale is much more advanced than what other vendors have.”

EMC this week also is scheduled to announce products related to OpenScale and its Online ControlCenter services. The products, called SAN Architect and AutoAdvice, could help users design and deploy storage-area networks (SAN), and better monitor and manage storage networks’ performance.

Like OpenScale, AutoAdvice and SAN Architect use the Collector. AutoAdvice, a technology EMC acquired through its purchase of Luminate that formerly was called EMCLink, is a Web service customers can subscribe to that lets EMC access their servers, storage, databases and applications, so performance-related problems can be headed off before they happen. AutoAdvice works with any direct-attached, network-attached, JBOD or SAN storage.

Initially, it also will poll information from SAP R/3, Oracle, Microsoft Internet Information Server, Exchange and SQL Server running on Windows, Unix or Linux servers. It will monitor EMC Clariion, Symmetrix, Celerra, HP StorageWorks and Network Appliance file servers, and Brocade, Inrange and McData Fibre Channel switches. EMC is in the process of qualifying Cisco’s switches and other arrays from Hitachi, HP and IBM.

AutoAdvice creates a daily report and stores data in the Intelligence Center, which then generates historical reports so customers can see how their systems are working over time.

SAN Architect, the other new Online ControlCenter service, is a design and deployment configuration tool that lets users create trial configurations before they deploy or expand a SAN. It outputs configuration information to many sources, such as Microsoft Visio.