EMC unveils software for open environments

In the face of intense competition and declining profits in its hardware division, network storage developer EMC Corp. launched Oct. 29 several new 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).

The free API-based middleware allows customers to manage multivendor network devices, host storage systems and resources.

WideSky 1.0 will support rival storage systems by IBM, Compaq, Sun Microsystems, Hitachi Data Systems, Hewlett-Packard, and Network Appliance. EMC has also boosted its ControlCenter software with several new products in EMC ControlCenter/Open Edition, a back-up system (called Replication Manager), and a reporting tool entitled StorageScope.

The ControlCenter management solution now includes WideSky and will automatically govern storage systems, monitor server performance, and allows for “instant restore” and re-purposing of critical data.

The solutions reflect EMC’s AutoIS strategy as initially announced last August and implies a new openness to work with other vendors and accommodate competing products, according to company officials.

The launch also marks the beginning of the most significant wave of new product introductions in EMC’s history, said EMC president and CEO Joe Tucci, adding that the goal of AutoIS and WideSky is to help customers reduce complexity, lower management costs and automate processes.

“Under AutoIS we will apply the weight of EMC’s massive software R&D investments to simplify customers’ heterogeneous environments,” Tucci said.

AutoIS is the foundation for a “new world of openness” that will integrate servers, connectivity devices and storage systems with every major application, said Jim Rothnie, senior vice-president and chief technology officer at EMC. He added the AutoIS version of EMC’s Control Center/Open Edition would be shipping free with EMC storage software within 90 days.

Rothnie maintains that EMC continues to lead in both the hardware and software markets, despite perceptions that the company is falling behind.

“This is chapter one of the AutoIS story. And in chapter one, our heroes deliver the foundation technologies of AutoIS,” Rothnie said.

“From a product standpoint, we have to maintain our lead, and I think clearly in the software area we have a big lead over our traditional competitors. Our main competitors have more recently announced products that they have caught up but the differences are still really very large,” Rothnie said.

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

“They’ve recognized that it’s much harder to differentiate on hardware and much more valuable to the end user to differentiate based on management and software,” Freedman said, adding that customer want assurances that there will be interoperability within a multivendor infrastructure.

“What (EMC) is seeing is that companies don’t want to be hooked in to 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. “The industry over the past twelve months has been focusing on interoperability and yet that is still the number one problem that end users are encountering.”

It seems that EMC has finally joined the open systems party, said Jennifer Ewen, senior analyst at Evans Research Corp. (ERC) in Toronto.

“It’s nice to know that (EMC) recognized that everyone else is out there actually selling storage products and have decided to interoperate,” Ewen said. “EMC has certainly pursued premium pricing in the past and that’s not likely to be sustainable in the open systems future,” Ewen said.

Ewen added that competition and an expected fall in storage prices has forced EMC to protect its revenue base.

“It’s great on one hand to be able to penetrate accounts that your competitors have previously owned. On the other hand, it does expose (EMC’s) own accounts to that same penetration,” Ewen said.

“There are other companies out there who have been doing this sort of thing for quite a while and quite well. I think the fact that it’s got the EMC name behind it probably lends it some good weight.”

EMC Corp., in Hopkinton, Mass., is at http://www.emc.com

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