EMC offers up open storage

In the face of increased competition and declining profits in its hardware division, network storage developer EMC Corp. late last month launched its suite of software applications that extend to both EMC and competing vendor storage environments.

At a press conference in New York’s Hudson Theatre, EMC officially unveiled Widesky 1.0, its new storage management middleware that the Hopkinton, Mass.-based company touts as the “next wave” of open software applications for automated information storage (AutoIS).

“This is Chapter One of the AutoIS story. And in Chapter One, our heroes deliver the foundation technologies of AutoIS,” said Jim Rothnie, senior vice-president and CTO at EMC.

AutoIS is the foundation that will aim to integrate servers, connectivity devices and storage systems with every major application, Rothnie said. He added that the AutoIS version of EMC’s Control Center/Open Edition will be shipping free with EMC storage software by the end of the year.

The API-based middleware allows customers to manage multi-vendor network devices, storage systems and resources. WideSky 1.0 will support storage systems by rivals IBM, Compaq, Sun Microsystems, Hitachi Data Systems, Hewlett-Packard, and Network Appliance.

EMC has also boosted its flagship ControlCenter software with several new products: ControlCenter/Open Edition (enterprise storage management environment), Replication Manager (automated replication software), and StorageScope (network and host storage resource reporting software).

Together with WideSky, EMC’s ControlCenter management solution will govern storage systems, monitor server performance, and provide “instant restore” and re-purposing of critical data.

EMC’s AutoIS strategy and information management software was adopted by MasterCard International, and gave the company the ability to access, view and manage information from a central point of control, said MasterCard CTO Jerry McElhatton in Purchase, N.Y.

“Any time that we can minimize the amount of effort required to have a single view of something, that just helps us create more value. It helps us to be more efficient and it’s more economical,” McElhatton said.

EMC AutoIS strategy appears to be the right way to go but does open the company up to risk if it doesn’t work, said servers/storage research manager Alan Freedman of IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto. Freedman said the move is not expected to affect EMC’s core focus on its hardware division.

“They’ve recognized that it is much harder to differentiate on hardware and much more valuable to the end user to differentiate based on management and software,” Freedman said.

“What [EMC] is seeing is that companies don’t want to be hooked into one supplier, they want to have choice and they don’t want to disregard their previous investment if it wasn’t in EMC,” Freedman said, adding that customers want assurances that there will be interoperability within a multivendor infrastructure.

The solutions reflect EMC’s AutoIS strategy as announced last August and expands on the Oct. 22 announcement of a five-year, multi-billion dollar enterprise storage deal with Dell Corp. to co-brand EMC’s Clariion line of enterprise storage systems. Storage installed under this agreement can also be managed through the AutoIS initiative, Rothnie noted.

Heather Simmons, a marketing director at Dell Canada in Toronto, said the agreement makes Dell a top reseller of the SAN/NAS offering and gives EMC increased market share in the Windows NT/2000 storage markets.

“Getting access to EMC’s global services organization is really going to help us with enterprise-class customers,” Simmons said.

EMC invests about US$750 million a year in software development, said Rob Stroud, divisional partner manager at EMC Canada in Toronto, adding that the future of the open storage market is in developing software products that increase the usability and functionality of storage hardware.

“Customers are demanding more robust enterprise-calibre storage solutions because of the nature of mission criticality of their applications.”