Channel Insider content and product recommendations are editorially independent. We may make money when you click on links to our partners. Learn More.

It appears that EMC is looking to continue its technical leadership in the archiving market with virtualization and aggregation enhancements to its Centera line of content addressed storage (CAS) systems. The Centera Virtual Archive allows users the ability to federate existing archive capacity, add new archive capacity, and aggregate archives over geographic distance — all without adding significant management overhead or cost.

While that should prove attractive to customers with multiple archives, the promised follow-up extensions will be even more of a game changer, says analyst Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc. "The product has a tremendous amount of headroom for global companies." He expects the value of Centera Virtual Archive to grow over time, as the technology’s geographic limits expand from single campuses to cities, countries and the entire world. It should eventually pay big dividends for companies needing to manage multiple isolated, globally distributed digital archives. 

According to EMC, the Centera Virtual Archive simplifies management of archives at scale and distance, delivering significant operating efficiencies. Benefits include the ability to: aggregate multiple Centera systems together into a single, tamper-proof, virtual archive addressable by one or many applications; add new capacity and processing power beyond the existing boundaries of a single Centera system or a single data centre; aggregate multiple Centera systems at distributed sites into a single management domain (subject to network bandwidth limitations); and, enable flexible allocation and reallocation of distributed archive capacity to meet changing requirements. 

King says the most important aspect of the announcement is the notion of creating a single virtual interface that can allow EMC customers to cluster or aggregate clustered Centera systems into what looks like a single virtual Centera pool.

"From the outside, there will be multiple Centera systems that can be running in a variety of different locations that can look like and be managed as a single archive. You can have a centralized archive without the boxes all being lined up in the same room."

This should be really appealing to the large enterprise market with multiple archiving sites — or smaller companies that must keep regional archives for governance or regulatory purposes, he says. However, while it is a relatively ‘simple’ solution, it requires a fairly high degree of technical sophistication to install and manage, so King expects that this product will not appeal to EMC’s broad channel.

"I can see where this could be an interesting or valuable solution for midmarket companies, but that would be for the kind of companies requiring robust archiving solutions in the first place, i.e. companies focusing on accounting, banking, even small online retailers, anybody needing to collect and store transaction data for compliance purposes."

The potential market is somewhat limited, but King says other companies like IBM, HDS and HP that are interested in this space will pay close attention. "If this achieves the kind of success or degree of interest that EMC is betting on, I can see them developing similar solutions. The same thing happened when Centera entered the market (in 2002 with a SATA-based archiving solution that delivered better performance than tape at a far lower price than enterprise-class FibreChannel-based solutions).  Within a year or less most of them were working very hard on creating their own SATA-based solutions."

Overall, King expects the archiving market to grow strongly, driven largely by the increasing demand for government oversight of industries like banking and finance. "This will create a tidal wave of need for products like Centera. Many companies are looking for better ways of centrally managing and controlling the data that they store and the new Centera is designed for that."