Open-source databases pinpoint demand ... EMC and HP say storage plus content management add up to information life-cycle management ... SAN matures.

January 30, 2004

8 Min Read

Info Life-Cycle Management

EMC, HP, IBM, and Hitachi are early movers

Mix storage and content management, and what do you get? A new category of application, information life-cycle management (ILM), is what industry behemoths EMC and Hewlett-Packard have been working to create from that union.

ILM combines technology and processes to let companies manage critical data from creation to disposal. It assumes that the value of all data is not equal, and changes over time: The most critical data should get the most reliable storage and services.

While pieces of ILM strategy have been around for years, the need for a complete solution has grown. Companies are struggling to comply with regulations such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and HIPAA, and to plan for disaster recovery.

Storage companies, eager to bolster revenue by tapping into a hot new market, are jockeying for leadership. Storage titan EMC's acquisition of Documentum, a content management leader, and agreement to bundle OuterBay's database archiving software with the ILM technology from EMC's Legato acquisition, flesh out the company's software offerings. HP's planned acquisition of Persist Technologies, a leading provider of software designed for long-term storage and access of reference information, and partnership with systems integrator Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, while strengthening the company's ILM portfolio are also part of HP's "Adaptive Enterprise" strategy to bring IT in line with the business. And EMC and HP are not alone. Hitachi Data Systems and IBM are quickly getting in on the act, with Sun and Veritas expected to follow.

So far, potential customers are taking a wait-and-see attitude, citing unproven technologies and interoperability issues between rival products.

— Michelle M. Young

Open-Source DBs Go Big Time

New offerings from PostgreSQL and MySQL

The last two months of 2003 may be looked at as the time open-source databases made their initial charge at the enterprise-level database market. In November, both MySQL AB and PostgreSQL Global Development Group released new versions of their open-source databases, which include added features and tools that are specifically targeted at larger enterprises.

After partnering with SAP, MySQL introduced MaxDB, which is its version of SAP's open-source database. With the MySQL brand and marketing behind MaxDB, it has attracted "the attention of the marketplace," according to Gartner Inc. vice-president Kevin Strange. MaxDB includes features such as snapshots, archive tables, and MaxDB replication. Also, with the MySQL Proxy software program, MaxDB and MySQL work together, and data can be transferred between the two.

PostgreSQL, while not creating as much buzz, has introduced version 7.4 of the PostgreSQL Relational Database, which includes new tools for larger enterprises. The upgrade includes optimization tuning for systems running AMD's 64-bit Opteron processor, improved index maintenance tools, and support of full-text indexing.

Charlie Brann, SAP administrator at Swisslog TransLogic in Denver, has been using the SAP open-source database for more than seven years and calls it a "dream" compared to other databases he's used.

"I might spend a couple of hours a week working with the database directly, and the majority of that is simply checking statistics and verifying parameters. MaxDB literally runs itself," said Brann. "We've had a couple of untimely system crashes due to hardware failure, and have not suffered any data corruption as a result. The database is very stable."

However, questions remain about how open-source databases will fare in a database market that is dominated by Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft. Strange contends that although open-source databases have excellent support and stability, there are still two main challenges that need to be faced: scalability for large enterprises and third-party support. As of now, Strange sees large enterprises using open-source databases only for internal applications and not mission-critical applications.

But directly competing with the big databases like Oracle is not MySQL's intention. According to Zack Urlocker, MySQL VP of marketing, the goal is to attract the commoditized portion of the market. He compares Oracle 9i and IBM's DB2 to a Ferrari, and MaxDB to a Honda. "A Ferrari is nice to drive to work in, but a Honda will get you there just as efficiently and in a more cost-effective manner," said Urlocker. Strange agrees and believes the open-source databases will find success with the lower-end and midsized markets.

It may take a while for the low-cost attraction of open-source databases to make a real change in the industry the way Linux has in the OS market. In the meantime, Strange says Oracle and IBM should keep a close eye on MySQL and PostgreSQL. "[MaxDB] is not ready to run the enterprise now, but it is a lot better than I thought it was," said Strange. "MySQL is where Microsoft's SQL Server 2000 was two years ago in the server industry. [MaxDB] is missing features now, but as [it adds] them in and makes improvements, [it is] going to cause a little shakeup."

Jeanette Perez is a former Intelligent Enterprise editor and is now a freelance journalist.

— Michelle M. Young

SAN Switches Come of Age

The specter of commoditization looms

When you think of Gateway, the next thing to come to mind is probably a Holstein. After that, it's commodity PCs and home electronics. Most people don't associate Gateway with storage area network (SAN) switches, but that's what the company will now offer in its ever-diversifying product line. And it may put even more downward pressure on SAN switch prices than Cisco has in the past year and a half.

In August 2002, with the entrance of Cisco, it was clear that the SAN switch market was about to change. "Prior to Cisco it was a two-horse race between Brocade and McData," says Phil Goodwin, analyst with the Meta Group. "Now there are three and a price war is on." Goodwin says prices declined 30 percent in 2003 from about $1,200 to $800 per SAN port. The reason, he explains, is that "Cisco does not have a superior product, and the cost of changing brands is high. So Cisco has to compete on price, forcing the competition to cut prices as well."

It was inevitable that Cisco, with its deep roots in IP and Ethernet, would apply those strengths to other kinds of networks such as Fiber Channel, the fabric behind SAN. In fact, Cisco chose to enter the market just as demand was building for a more intelligent SAN switch that can also act like a router.

Most analysts estimate Cisco's current share of the SAN switch market at about five percent. Brocade is somewhere north of 50 percent and McData has about 30. The incumbents are also introducing new switches with routing functions. Brocade is touting its Silkworm Fabric Application Platform as a programmable switch/router that can handle iSCSI (Internet Small Computer Systems Interface), FCIP (Fiber Channel IP), and FICON (Fiber Connector), the same routing protocols that Cisco advertises in its MDS 9000 line.

Goodwin says this is great news for consumers because prices for high-end, SAN switch/routers will continue to drop for the foreseeable future. He also thinks there is room for at least the current three top players in this space. Meanwhile, vendors such as Gateway put additional pressure on the market from the other end. They're putting together lower-cost SAN solutions by bundling SAN hardware from Hitachi Data Systems with Gateway servers equipped with iSCSI ports.

This kind of action always raises the specter of commoditization, the bane of high-margin technology markets like SAN. But Brocade's VP of marketing, Tom Buiocchi, claims he isn't worried. "You can call it commoditization," he says, "but we see it as a new segment."

Mark Leon [[email protected]] is a freelance business and technology reporter.

— Mark Leon

Industry News

High-level intelligence at a glance

Very Large Databases Growing Faster.Winter Corp. has released its annual study of large-scale database implementations, "The Winter TopTen Program." The largest database reported in the survey was a whopping 828.3 terabytes, on an Objectivity DBMS at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. The study shows that database size for transaction processing and decision-support systems (DSSs) has grown dramatically in the last few years on all operating systems, but the most striking increase shows up for DSSs on Unix. Survey participants expect DSS peak workload sizes to begin increasing at a faster rate by 2005. To view all the results, go to www.wintercorp.com.

Spate of Data Security Blunders.High-profile data security breaches have been hitting the news. Among them: A computer was stolen from a Wells Fargo consultant, containing unencrypted personal information for thousands of the bank's customers. Days later, an annual inventory showed storage disks were missing from the Los Alamos Laboratory in New Mexico.

HP Reorganizes Enterprise Offerings.Hewlett-Packard has decided to combine its healthy Services unit with the struggling Enterprise Systems Group. The new unit, Technology Solutions Group, envelops services, software, and hardware for enterprise servers and storage.

PeopleSoft and Oracle Still Locked in Battle.Oracle won't relent, even in the middle of the holidays, from pursuing a hostile takeover of PeopleSoft. On Christmas Eve, Oracle raised an additional $1.5 billion in revolving credit to augment funds for its extended offer to acquire PeopleSoft. The acquisition attempt has been delayed pending antitrust regulators' approval. PeopleSoft, barely a week into the new year, filed with the Alameda (Calif.) County Superior court a request to interview and collect documents from Oracle executives, according to a local newspaper. The Contra Costa Times reports that the request is "part of PeopleSoft's lawsuit that accuses Oracle of launching its bid to create havoc with PeopleSoft's business."

Business Objects Produces Roadmap.Crystal Decisions is now officially part of Business Objects, with an integrated sales force and public product roadmap. The company will integrate the two product lines in three phases. The first phase will be reached during the second quarter of 2004; the final phase in 2005. Many pundits initially speculated that the two product lines were unlikely to be as deeply integrated as the company now says they will be. The company has also announced the Version 10 Suite of Crystal products, as yet not integrated with the Business Objects line.

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