Regulations Push Content Management into the Storage Arena

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Regulations Push Content Management into the Storage Arena

Michael Pastore

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Keeping tabs on content is more important than ever, thanks to the profusion of federal regulations from Sarbanes-Oxley to HIPPA, which require companies to safeguard and archive data for an extended period of time. This means a content management strategy for the enterprise must go beyond the databases that marked the beginnings of the content management industry and incorporate storage as well.

It's called "information lifecycle management" (ILM) and the idea is perhaps best seen at work when you look at what storage vendor EMC has done with its products and acquisitions over the last two years. EMC acquired content management vendor Documentum in October 2003 and storage software maker Legato in July 2003. But it is the company's work in cont ent-addressed storage (CAS) that most reflects the changes in how enterprises deal with their content.

The premise of ILM, according to Roy Sanford, EMC's vice president of content-addressed storage, is that the value of information changes over time, and the value does not always drop. CAS uses provides a 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 saved. No duplicates are ever stored.

CAS goes a step beyond mere archiving by keeping content under a virtual lock and key until it's needed or regulations allow it to be purged from the system. In today's world of content, where contracts, correspondence, and financial data must be saved under penalty of law, it's become a popular way to store information.

"We've seen the compliance market blossom for our customers," said Sanford. "It continues to grow. It's interesting to see the application space continue to expand. It's more broader than we imagined at the time."

EMC introduced the idea of content-addressed storage with its Centera product, which quickly found traction among companies looking for help managing their content in a world of new federal regulations and corporate governance. Sanford said Centera has seen "substantial growth" in the past year, as well as an increase in partners interested in working with EMC on Centera applications. There are more than 100 integrated applications; Centera has been integrated with more than 40 products from content management vendors; and the product has been used to build applications for storing medical images, and for backup and archiving applications.

"We're seeing an uptick in digitizing non-digital content," Sanford said. Content that existed only on paper or videotape -- any form of media -- can be digitized and added to a CAS application. Sanford also said Centera users are bringing content from optical and tape storage systems and giving it a home in CAS applications.

CAS systems can't compete with network-attached storage for speed, so they are best used for storing fixed content, i.e., content that doesn't need to be recalled often, but that needs its integrity well-protected.

EMC's success with Centera hasn't gone unnoticed by other companies looking to merge their storage products with ILM. Hewlett-Packard used technology it acquired from Persist to build its Reference Information Storage System (RISS), and archive and indexing application that focuses on the messaging market. Permabit's Permeon software uses CAS in its Reference Vault product for fixed-content storage.

Both Permabit, with its Permeon Compliance Vault, and EMC's Centera Compliance Edition have taken aim at the market for managing content that is subject to federal and corporate regulations.

In June, EMC improved Centera, adding retention classes that allow users to change retention policies for an entire class of content instead of managing each piece of content individually, as well as a configurable default retention period, which allows the storage administrator to specify a default retention period in the event an application does not or cannot assign one.

Enterprises can no longer overlook the storage of fixed-content assets, and CAS provides a way for the content to be retained and kept secure until needed. It's alo puuting storage vendors right in the middle of the content management space.

"Once it was a have-to-do, now it's a need-to-do," said EMC's Sanford. "Whether it was SOX or the realization that archived assets need integrity."

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