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Information Lifecycle Management

‘Policy-based management capability is crucial for ILM’

Of late, EMC grabbed market share from its competitors and increased its profits. It began the year by reinventing itself—it just announced a new strategy and had the most extensive product launch in its history. In an exclusive interview with Network Magazine, the EMC South Asia executive team updates Brian Pereira on EMC's ILM strategy, NAS-SAN convergence and its plans for India

All the storage vendors are now talking about ILM. How does EMC's ILM strategy vary from that of other vendors?

[Ajaz Munsiff] ILM is all about information management. Everyone has been doing information management for quite sometime, but no one has really looked at the lifecycle of information. It's the time when data gets created (it enters the system). It's the time when it's not needed anymore and gets deleted. So it's all about looking at the information management process from start to finish—with the end goal of minimizing the cost of IT or information management. That's ILM basically.

Tiered storage is one of the main criteria for ILM. Traditionally, data is either online (disk) or offline (tape). At EMC in the past, we just had one product (Symmetrix). Today we have filled the gap. We have a spectrum of products that address information management from start to finish.

We do not have point products. We offer end-to-end solutions. All products are part of a family and part of an integrated story. We can talk about the benefits of a single integrated infrastructure for SAN, NAS and CAS. Physically also, it is a single integrated infrastructure and we refer to it as Automated Network Storage.

But more important than that is the management—the policy-based management capability. ILM is the hardware; the platforms are important, but to bring ILM to life you need software tools and the management capability to deliver lower TCO throughout the product's lifecycle.

When there is so much information generated it's just not possible for humans to classify it and choose the appropriate storage medium. Is there a way to automate this in the ILM scheme?

[Steve Coad] That's the whole purpose of ILM. You would use ILM to automate the management of your data or information. As the information explosion happens it becomes impossible to do this manually for all of your data.

So the purpose behind ILM is to have tiered storage (for the right application) and to be able to automate (have data and information put on that same storage platform), based on parameters that you set.

The automation happens after all the policies are formed. There isn't a tool to automate the classification of data. Each vertical will have a different way of classifying its data. But once the policies are set the information can be moved to the appropriate storage medium.

EMC is accelerating the convergence of server and storage virtualization. Joe Tucci, CEO, EMC, said that separation of servers and storage "is being treated as a thing of the past." Please explain.

[Jon Murray] When he says that the separation of servers and storage is a thing of the past, he doesn't mean that separate decisions will no longer be made for storage. He means the whole enterprise will no longer be seen from the management perspective as 'manage your server environment' or 'now let's manage your storage environment.'

Separate decisions for best of breed technology purchases, best servers, storage, applications etc are still independently made. But the integration of the management within an ILM infrastructure allows for them to be managed in a virtual environment, where you have server virtualization.

With server virtualization you have multiple OSs in a single server infrastructure and you are able to migrate operating systems between server resources in a virtual infrastructure. Coupled with the ILM storage infrastructure we are talking about today, it can now be wrapped, from a management perspective, with one wrapper.

So you are still making an independent server resource decision when I purchase, versus a separate storage decision for best of breed. Once I put them together I manage them as a single entity. So separate, yes, in their criteria for buying—but managed centrally.

What's your approach to NAS-SAN convergence?

[Ajaz Munsiff] For us NAS gateways are the key to NAS-SAN convergence.

We had a software product in the market for the last three years called 'High Road'. It gives NAS as well as SAN benefits depending on the request from the application on the server side.

We think that there is limited scope for standalone NAS devices. The future is NAS gateways in the front-end; and the backend will be pooled SAN storage.

Many companies need file level access with SAN-like capabilities. How do you plan to address this requirement?

[Steve Coad] EMC is offering storage solutions that bridge NAS and SAN. We have NAS gateways for this purpose.

If a customer has an EMC SAN with an EMC Clariion (midrange storage solution) and all these NAS devices, we can put in a gateway and have the data from the NAS reside on the Clariion, which is connected via SAN, which traditionally has very good methods of backup, disaster recovery, protection, availability etc. So it's much more robust than a traditional NAS environment.

[Ajaz Munsiff] The NAS gateway that we have just launched can also be put in front of the Symmetrix (high-end storage solution), so it is like a Clariion based gateway.

What are your focus areas for India this year?

[Jon Murray] We shall continue to invest in our India development center, which is growing at a rapid rate. We said conservatively that we will add 100 people this year—it's likely to be more than that. They will develop software for EMC technology deployments across the globe.

Outside the India operations we will concentrate on sales, support, and professional services. Our objectives there are to grow significantly. India is the fastest growing region for us (the other being Thailand).

We've been in India for three years and there's a lot of foreign investment going into India. We will be focusing on penetrating the enterprise segment even more—not just the MNCs, but also the Indian domestic companies. We shall be going after the SMEs. While we shall continue to pursue the BFSI and Telco verticals at the high-end we also want to target the Media and Entertainment industries. We'll also pursue Government companies. Today we are in New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. We want to serve customers in more Indian cities, through our channel and EMC India.

What's the next frontier of automated network storage?

[Ajaz Munsiff] I think Virtualization is the next frontier of automation. ILM encompasses everything, right from the application down to the storage level.

Automated network storage is the first step towards Information Lifecycle Management. ILM requires true virtualization horizontally—across the storage layer—and vertically with the server layer. (Hence the VMware acquisition). This is EMC's vision for a Dynamic & Virtual Infrastructure.

What is EMC's strategy/plan for Utility Computing (Storage-on-Demand)?

[Ajaz Munsiff] From an infrastructure point of view we see that customers will have (and it’s already happening) four separate infrastructures with applications running across them. The four infrastructures are: clients, network, servers, and storage. Utility computing requires virtualization across all of these infrastructure layers and the layers above—Database; Applications.

Customers are already laying the foundation by implementing a virtualized storage (SAN) layer. This started when EMC first introduced Enterprise Storage in the mid-90s. This was the beginning of SAN and NAS. So virtualization of the data layer is the first step in preparation for utility based computing. Customers who already have automated networked storage in place have a clear advantage, a head start. They already have Storage-On-Demand.

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