EMC sets its sights on storage software market

Looking to repeat its hardware success in the storage software business, EMC on Monday opened chapter one of the company's AutoIS (automated information storage) initiative with four new software product announcements at a launch event in New York.

Among the new products for the first chapter of AutoIS are an updated version of EMC's flagship Control Center storage management software, free API-based middleware called WideSky, a reporting tool called StorageScope, and a backup and restore system called Replication Manager.

"[The software suite] is not a silver bullet; it's a machine gun full of silver bullets," said Jim Rothnie, vice president and CTO of EMC, based in Hopkinton, Mass.

The ultimate goal for EMC is to eventually be able to manage any heterogeneous, mixed-vendor storage network using a single EMC storage management framework. But like most first chapters, much of the story for AutoIS is still to come, as EMC builds out the foundation of AutoIS to control and manage more and more storage systems from third-party vendors, Rothnie said.

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

Automation and APIs are central to AutoIS, as the former frees up storage managers from time-consuming, difficult tasks, and the latter allows EMC's software to manage other vendor's storage products.

"The role of AutoIS is to use software to automate key tasks that our customers are currently doing with human beings, and thus fundamentally lowering their costs and reducing their errors," Rothnie explained.

In the next 90 days, the AutoIS version of EMC's Control Center, ECC Open Edition, will arrive, shipping free with any EMC storage software. An embedded Oracle database will serve as the repository for storage applications within ECC Open Edition.

ECC StorageScope is set to arrive within 30 days. The software will help administrators better understand how their storage resources are being used and make it easier to bill back to internal departments based on their individual storage usage. Support for storage systems from Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP), Sun Microsystems Inc., and IBM Corp. should arrive for StorageScope in the first half of 2002.

Replication Manager is available immediately to assist storage managers in using disk backups previously made using EMC's TimeFinder software as recovery backups. Replication Manager speeds the time previously needed to restore a storage database from a disk backup.

"Customers have been asking for automation of the process of controlling these [storage] replicas, and Replication Manager is the automatic transmission for this powerful engine that does replication, automates the scheduling of backups, and creates disk replicas, then uses those replicas to restore a data base." Rothnie said.

APIs are the heart of WideSky, free middleware which will ship in all future EMC software products, according to George Mele, the director of software marketing for EMC. With WideSky, EMC has essentially scoured the globe for every available storage API and loaded them into the middleware, Mele said. Storage APIs for EMC's own Clariion and Symmetrix hardware systems are included as well as API's spanning Unix, Windows NT, and Linux storage systems. Network switch and host component APIs are also loaded into WideSky, and EMC will add multiple APIs from Hitachi and IBM early next year as well as any other storage APIs as they become available, according to Mele.

If APIs are not available for a certain third-party storage system, EMC technicians will deliver control of the system to the WideSky customer though the system's CLI (Command Line Interface), Mele said.

"The [WideSky] customer never has to do anything," Mele said. "If company X comes out with a new widget and customers have to have it, our middleware guys start coding to company X's CLIs immediately. Everything in WideSky is done by EMC."

"Part of WideSky's mission is to extend the API coverage to include what's happening with the application domain. It's an extremely important new entry and important to the industry because it creates a framework in which many storage software providers can connect into the storage domain heterogeneously," Rothnie said.

Although EMC still has several chapters to unveil before AutoIS is complete, Tony Prigmore, an analyst at the Enterprise Storage Group in Milford, Mass., believes EMC is on the right track and that early adopters can experience benefits immediately.

"If you and I are running a data center and have EMC hardware, Compaq Storage Works hardware, and IBM and Hitachi hardware, it would make your life an awful lot easier to have a common storage management framework," Prigmore said.

"I think if I'm a user right now, I'm looking at how pertinent [AutoIS] is to my current infrastructure relative to where they have APIs right now, so decisions will be on a case-by-case basis," he added. "But there is no advantage to waiting. If you know you will get more advantage to this framework, there is no downside to starting now because you can build your processes around it, and EMC generally does a good job of rolling out components in a timely manner."

EMC is aggressively pursuing its storage software product strategy, spending 75 percent of its R&D budget on storage software, or almost US$200 million a quarter, according to EMC.

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