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Content Addressed Storage.

Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) has become the latest acronym in the Storage industry. Storage vendors are adapting the term at rapid rates as they attempt to describe all encompassing technologies that meet the new regulatory rules and incorporate disaster recovery solutions. Critical data is given top priority storage resources and is always available while over time the data is migrated to more cost efficient locations within the system. Fixed content, or never changing data, needs to be managed differently as part of a comprehensive ILM approach.

As regulations in varied industries impact how each company must house their information and for how long, both long term and near term storage for fixed content is changing. Growing content generation is an issue of concern as increased mandates across varied industries are being inked. Companies need to satisfy strict records-retention regulations such as HIPAA and electronic records mandates in healthcare, SEC Rule 17a-4 for broker-dealers, Department of Defense legislation in the government sector, CFR mandates in life sciences and Sarbanes-Oxley requirements for all public companies or companies that are working towards IPOs. All of these regulations are driving the need for increased storage and in inalterable formats.

ILM should be looked at as a way to maximize the value of this information at the lowest cost at every point of the lifecycle. By combining the processes and storage technologies, end users can manage data from the moment it is created to when it is no longer necessary. Implementing an ILM strategy involves identifying the right software, hardware and process at each stage of information's lifecycle. EMC provides the Centera solution to handle much of this content, and through partner relationships, the product can meet the ever growing demands of the fixed content storage market.

Fixed Content

The term "fixed content" simply refers to data that is written once and never changed. Many of these critical legal, business and reference documents appear as invoices, purchase orders, financial statements, check images, archived e-mail and attachments, broadcast content, satellite imagery or medical X-rays. This information needs to be stored and accessible but cannot be altered in any way. Once housed in file cabinets or old storage archives, regulatory requirements and digitization across numerous industries is increasingly driving this content to be stored online.

Regulations like DOD 5015.2 in the government sector discuss how the Department of Defense must secure and maintain documents while the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Rule 17a-4 describes stringent rules that govern the storage of all electronic messages including e-mail and instant messages for its members. The EPA also has requirements for companies in their electronic reporting and records management while healthcare companies are coming to terms with what Secretary of Health Tommy Thompson proposed this summer--to make all medical records electronic in the next few years.

Across varied industries, also driving fixed content is the need for regulatory compliance. Sarbanes-Oxley Act, passed August 2002, was enacted to restore investor confidence in the financial reporting of public companies and hold a company's officers personally responsible for misrep-resentation. Any public company is affected by the act, and experts recommend private companies hoping to go public or be acquired by a public company also should abide by the rules as well.

This act has a two phased effect on IT departments and their storage components as companies initially scrambled just to comply with the law in order to provide the necessary documentation to auditors. Eventually, companies will want to automate the process, building audit trails and procedures into their systems. With Sarbanes-Oxley in place, corporations with valuations greater than $75 million, will by 2006, end up generating, in total, close to 1.6 exabytes of fixed content data per year. To put it in current terms, that means 1.6 billion gigabytes of fixed content a year.

Unlike other files or databases, these documents need to be maintained in their original format. As companies look to leverage this content for fueling new business opportunities and driving revenue, an alternative approach that provides an all encompassing ILM strategy becomes imperative. When you add in compliance for electronic record-keeping, which was spurred even further by new SEC regulations, a storage schema designed specifically for keeping fixed content secure and in place is inevitable.

A Solution: Content Addressed Storage

Companies are seeking a proven storage solution that can help users better handle the growing volume of fixed content at a very low cost. The growth of this information is explosive. For example, mainframe applications generate new fixed content every nanosecond. One of the solutions that help companies maintain and locate this vast amount of information on an ongoing and growing basis is Content Addressed Storage.

EMC coined the term "content-addressed storage" (CAS) in 2002 when it released its Centera product. At its most basic, CAS provides a kind of digital fingerprint for a stored piece of data. The fingerprint (also known as an ID or logical address) ensures that it is the same exact piece of data that was originally saved. No duplicates are ever stored. It's a radical departure from the traditional file system used in most storage systems.

CAS offers significant advantages to the management of information and in meeting a company's fixed content needs. Content addressing eradicates the need for applications to understand and manage the physical location of information on storage media. The addresses for this information are calculated based upon the content itself and serve as the identifier for the application to find and retrieve an object. This process ensures the authenticity of the object.

Why EMC Centera?

The EMC Centera is a networked storage system specifically designed to store and provide easy access to fixed content information. Designed for businesses that store large and growing amounts of fixed content, the Centera enables companies to use traditionally offline information on a nearer term basis. The Centera aims to simplify the sometime daunting tasks of sharing, managing and protecting large-scale fixed-content repositories as companies grow their business and increase customer service levels.

The benefits of the Centera are attained as companies gain quicker access to fixed content assets through an affordable means. Archived e-mails, digital images and other electronic documents are easily stored and retrieved while maintaining their integrity and authenticity. In reaction to the regulatory needs and the increased corporate governance demands businesses are facing, EMC has developed compliance editions of the Centera as well. This will enable companies facing the most stringent regulatory requirements to meet the challenges the rules bring. As a company's assets grow, the storage requirements expand. Much of this information needs to remain readily accessible and the cost effective scalability of the Centera enables petabyte-level capacity across a growing network.

The Centera offers both random access and simultaneous use as it is designed to integrate with partner offerings as well. One area that is gaining increased attention is mainframe connections and their importance to the fixed content market.

Centera and the Mainframe

Mainframe applications generate new fixed content on such a rapid basis because the increases in transaction processing rates coupled with the increasing complexity of each transaction fuels the continued growth, along with the regulations already mentioned. Mainframe users achieve numerous benefits by moving their fixed content to open systems storage. They can maintain more fixed content data online, affordably, so that all queries whether from customers, in-house 'controllers', auditors or regulators can be dealt with in real-time rather than via costly offline batch processing procedures. It eliminates the need for tape drives, IBM 3995 optical storage, and the associated media while also retaining compliance requirements despite using open systems disks for storage.

In this environment, fixed content now has tangibly enhanced data integrity, reliability and availability as it is stored on highly resilient open systems disks, with built-in error correction and data mirroring capabilities, rather than on tapes or optical disks which are susceptible to media corruption over time. By supplementing the primary storage with relatively inexpensive open systems disks, the need for costly primary mainframe DASD storage [e.g. IBM's Enterprise Storage Server (ESS)] for fixed content data is significantly minimized.

In partnering with EMC, Bus-Tech provides the Mainframe Appliance for Storage (MAS) for EMC Centera. The MAS-Centera presents itself to the mainframe operating system as a standard IBM 3480 tape drive and by utilizing a technology known as tape-on-disk, companies can store and retrieve fixed content tape-based data to and from the Centera platform. This automates and intelligently manages the archiving of data from an IBM (or compatible) mainframe to a Centera system. With this integrated solution, the central storage archive is safe and secure allowing companies to utilize those fixed content assets from anywhere at anytime, whether it's for product development, customer transactions or meeting government regulations.


A reduction in the complexity of data center operations at the same time enhances system operator productivity (not to mention morale) by eliminating the need for tape-based data archival and retrieval, which rely heavily on operator intervention. By transitioning to open systems disk-based storage, operational efficiencies are significantly improved as companies will start reducing tape library costs, in terms of floor space, racks, equipment, cartridges, and personnel. In this environment, companies can totally eliminate the unacceptably high and recurring maintenance costs associated with tape drives and IBM 3995 optical drives, which in terms of capacities and speeds are rapidly becoming technical anachronisms.

If stored correctly and accessibly, the value of fixed content data does not change over time. What changes is the cost of maintaining that data. Solutions that leverage relatively inexpensive open systems disk redefine the cost characteristics of permanently storing large volumes of fixed content online. EMC Centera, along with partnering technologies to move fixed content off of the mainframe onto open systems storage, will ultimately improve productivity and satisfy the requirements of today's compliance environment.

Jim O'Connor is director of product marketing at Bus-Tech (Burlington, MA)
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Title Annotation:Storage Management
Author:O'Connor, Jim
Publication:Computer Technology Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2005
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