EMC to build virtualization storage router

EMC this week announced at its annual users conference that it plans to begin beta testing by next quarter of an enterprise-class "storage router" that will be able to pool storage capacity and migrate data seemlessly between boxes without impacting business applications.

EMC CEO Joe Tucci said during an interview with Computerworld that he expects to spend 12 percent of revenue on research and development over the next year, much of that on integrating recently acquired content management applications with existing EMC products.

Tucci also said EMC plans to build a storage router based on virtualization software acquired with VMware that can move business applications between servers and automatically adjust the capacity among the storage subsystems that support them.

Tucci said that with storage spending expected to increase by a modest 3 percent to 4 percent during the next year -- and with storage capacity needs expected to grow by 60 percent -- increasing performance through server and storage virtualization technologies and automated processes will continue to bring down storage costs. Those costs have already plummeted by 30 percent in the past year.

Rick Villars, an analyst at IDC said the planned router will move the functionality usually contained in an array controller into the network, allowing storage to be presented in a unified fashion to application servers.

Mark Lewis, EMC's executive vice president of open software, said EMC's storage router product should be available in the latter half of 2005. Lewis, who said the router is targeted at users with "petabytes" of storage needs, said the storage router software could reside on switches from any of the leading vendors, including Brocade Communication Systems Inc., Cisco Systems Inc. and McData Corp.

"I'm not worried about time to market on this one," Lewis said. "We've taken a lot more time than other companies that have tried to race a product to market."

Lewis later cited Brocade's acquisition of Rhapsody Networks' switch product as being similar in functionality but far smaller in scale.

Lewis told a crowd of about 3,500 people at the event that EMC has also already begun developing a common look and feel to all of its supported platforms, including applications acquired from Legato Systems Inc., content management company Documentum Inc. and VMware Inc.

"The basic user interface should be the same," he said of the multiyear integration project, dubbed Common Architecture, Modules and Services. "It's akin to Microsoft Office, you just know where the pull-down windows are," Lewis said.

Lewis also said EMC eventually plans to sell a single information life-cycle management (ILM) product that will handle the storage of data from creation to deletion on various types of storage, based on automated policies. That process, however, will take years, he said.

"While I don't plan anytime soon to have a shrink-wrapped product ... that's the aspiration we have with ILM," Lewis said. In the meantime, "our pledge is to maintain the openness of products. . . . But we will integrate them in a way that improves total cost of ownership and return on investment."

EMC also expects to add support for IBM mainframe applications as well as its data mirroring and replication software, including long-distance data mirroring or peer-to-peer remote copy and extended remote copy.

In addition, David Donatelli, executive vice president of storage platform operations at EMC, said the company is developing "ILM in a box," which will use policy-based software and a mix of high-performance and low-end disk drives in the same enclosure to offer tiers of storage.

Donatelli emphasized that VMware's virtualization software would eventually be incorporated into EMC's platforms to allow software upgrades to be performed without affecting applications using storage boxes. "This is a mandate we have for all of our products," he said.

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