EMC introduces ‘metered’ storage

EMC Corp. this week introduced a remote storage metering device that’s designed to allow its biggest customers to install standby storage and network bandwidth capacity and pay only for what they use.

EMC said its OpenScale Automated Billing appliance is being offered as part of its OpenScale storage asset and financial management program. First introduced in 1999, the OpenScale program has been limited to 50 to 100 EMC customers because its manual reporting process required field engineers to visit customer sites to determine how much storage was being used.

With the metering device, the OpenScale program now includes a server with software installed on-site to detect and monitor every storage device and application being run on a storage-area network (SAN), including capacity, switch ports and storage software licences. InfoLease, the application that runs on the EMC-provided server, monitors storage activity and automatically sends usage reports to EMC via a Web portal.

MasterCard International Inc. in Purchase, N.Y., manages about 300TB of EMC-based SAN storage and 50TB of direct-attached storage from Sun Microsystems Inc., said Jim Hull, vice president of computer network services.

Hull said several vendors, including IBM Corp. and Sun, are offering different types of on-demand capacity. For instance, MasterCard utilizes IBM’s on-demand mainframe capacity model. Hull said he’s interested in EMC’s program because a customer pays only for what it uses. “They want to sell you a new frame and fully populate it so that you pay for it as you use it. To me, that’s a great model,” said Hull. EMC said it won’t be charging any fees for standby capacity.

Bill Raftery, vice-president of global financial services at EMC in Hopkinton, Mass., said the vendor’s largest customers complain that current approaches to procuring and deploying additional storage are too complex and expensive. To buy extra storage, more than a dozen people are often needed to sign off on order forms at customer companies. The process can take anywhere from six to nine months to complete and cost millions of dollars.

EMC said OpenScale provides automated billing for its Symmetrix, Clariion and Celerra storage arrays, as well as its Connectrix switches and Time-Finder and Symmetrix Remote Data Facility software. Raftery said EMC is targeting “hundreds” of customers who run 50TB of storage or more for the metered service.

Tony Prigmore, an analyst at The Enterprise Storage Group Inc. in Milford, Mass., said EMC’s metering system represents an early version of utility computing. “I don’t know that EMC’s approach works for everyone in the market, but it’s an important step for a certain type of client . . . serious consumers of storage,” Prigmore said.