The investment firm, which manages $6 billion, looked at systems from Network Appliance Inc. and Storage Technology Corp. but late last year narrowed its choice to either EMC Corp.'s Centera, a proprietary hardware and software storage system, or Permabit Inc.'s Permeon Compliance Vault, built on industry-standard servers. Essex chose Permabit, which was half the cost of the EMC system and, more important, appeared to offer more flexibility and scalability, says Randy Wilson, assistant VP of IT at Essex. "Permeon runs on Dell commodity hardware, and if I run low on capacity I could easily buy new disk space," Wilson says. Permeon also runs on IBM and Hewlett-Packard hardware.
Because of requirements in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the Securities and Exchange Commission's 17a-4 rule, other financial-services companies may find systems based on standard hardware a good choice. The 17a-4 rule requires that financial companies retain unaltered customer data for at least seven years. "Seven years seems like forever" in terms of IT infrastructure, Wilson says, so it makes sense to go with a system that can run on a variety of hardware.
Permabit uses CommVault Systems Inc.'s Galaxy software for backup and recovery but its own content-addressable software for indexing data. EMC's Centera and other content-addressable systems are bound to the hardware they come with, says John Webster, an analyst at Data Mobility Group. "With Permabit, customers could change the hardware underneath and keep the software the same," he says. A 2-terabyte Permeon appliance starts at about $60,000.
EMC says its Centera system offers superior performance because of the integrated hardware and software. It recently increased Centera's storage capacity without raising the price.