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Opinion

EMC Rainfinity 7.0 And the Emerging Information-centric Powerhouse
Joyce Becknell By: Joyce Becknell, Research Director, EMEA, Sageza Group, Inc. (Moved)
Published: 23rd November 2006
Copyright Sageza Group, Inc. © 2006

Recently EMC announced Rainfinity Global File Virtualization version 7.0 which now supports enterprise archiving from heterogeneous file and network attached storage (NAS) to the Centera content addressed storage (CAS) platform. New in this version is the ability to automatically identify and archive static files based on customizable policies. It will also let managers archive NetApp files to Centera. At present, NetApp is the only NAS solution supported, although this will change. At present, Centera is also the only target although this, too, will change with time.The solution includes seven purpose-built applications that optimize capacity management, performance management, storage consolidation, tiered storage management, data protection, synchronous replication, and global namespace management.

File virtualization is another tool in the IT toolbox that can lead to better use of resources and through automation reduces downtime and administration costs. However by itself, while Rainfinity is full of useful features, it cannot solve business problems. This is the inherent challenge for the storage industry. Vendors continue to create products that make storage smarter and more efficient. At the same time, users continue to create more data—especially unstructured data and rich media—so vendors’ sales figures are healthy. The disconnect arises when buyers are not always aware of everything that storage—or more accurately information infrastructure—can do to help solve business issues, and vendors remain heavily product-focused in their go-to-market approach.

The issue is frequently broken down to the basics of lower costs and higher service levels, but there are a million roads to a bewildering range of destinations. Customers need vendors’ help with services that help them work out what they have, where it is, how much it costs, what they need it to do, and how they might use new technologies to better manage it all. EMC believes that storage is necessary plumbing but the really important asset for a business is the information and data within the plumbing and helping them with that is their goal. They believe they have superior plumbing with their traditional products, and in combination with their growing library of software and their developing services portfolio, they should be the customer’s strategic partner for the information infrastructure. They aren’t at the end point yet, but from what we can see, they have the clearest articulation of an information-based strategy that we’ve seen from anyone yet, and we think that gives them an edge despite market confusion over why they have branched into other technologies,

EMC is still best known as a storage company with systems like Symmetrix and Clariion. It has also managed to acquire some other really well-known and well respected products. Rainfinity was one of its acquisitions, as were Legato, VMWare, and most recently, RSA. While the attraction of companies like Legato or Rainfinity was fairly easy to work out, purchasing companies like VMWare and RSA has seemed odd or even wrong to some. For EMC watchers however, a vision is emerging that, if implemented, will result in a new powerhouse among technology vendors that reaches far beyond the traditional disk array and backup spaces.

EMC is positioning itself as an information management vendor, spanning everything from the basic infrastructure, to the management of structured and unstructured data governed by business rules, to protection from loss all wrapped within a security paradigm that is itself information-centric. That sounds ambitious, and it is, but EMC has been assembling the pieces to do just that. This new version of Rainfinity by itself is interesting for those who need file virtualization—a hot technology according to EMC—but it also another proof point that EMC is slowly but surely accumulating the pieces to make their vision into reality.

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