IT Life

Will Merger Produce Smarter Storage?

EMC and Documentum plan to build 'uber-repository' with better content management
If EMC Corp.'s $1.7 billion acquisition of Documentum Inc. delivers what the companies are promising, business-technology managers soon will see significantly smarter storage systems. The two vendors believe content management is the engine to make that happen.

Documentum CEO Dave DeWalt last week said the companies will develop an "uber-repository," essentially an intelligent storage area network that's application-aware so content-management software can drive storage policy. The result, according to DeWalt and EMC CEO Joe Tucci, will make it easier to label stored data, improving capacity management, performance management, and data availability for a wider array of apps.

The growing volume of data coming from a wider variety of content applications, combined with the records-management requirements dictated by regulations like the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, requires storage systems to get more sophisticated, the two executives said. That's why EMC moved to acquire Documentum, which has been an EMC partner for the past year. "We recognized that the needs around this data were fundamentally different than what the market has grown up with," Tucci said. "Now was a good time to expand." More powerful software in the storage network will mean data can be more easily protected, shared, and moved, he said.

The concept of an intelligent storage network appeals to Peg Mitchell, senior director of information systems at Aventis Pharmaceuticals Inc. Aventis already faces a fast-growing volume of content related to various stages of drug development, and it hopes to integrate more than 100 eRoom team-collaboration workspaces with its Documentum content-management system. Mitchell hopes to get approval to select a storage vendor next year for establishing a long-term storage archive. Today, however, searching for content in the active storage repository is slowed by the volume of old content stored there. And the search often brings back documents that are too old to be useful.

The combination of a long-term archive with content-management intelligence is something Mitchell says she'd make good use of. "I hope they can put out the framework the way they've envisioned because it'll solve a lot of problems," she says.

Documentum CEO Dave DeWalt

Documentum and EMC will develop an intelligent SAN, DeWalt says
Other customers say content-management systems are being stretched to their limits. But they're taking a wait-and-see approach on the merger. "I can see some potential benefits, but I don't get that immediate warm and fuzzy," says Dennis McGuire, IT manager for research, development, and engineering at Bausch & Lomb, a maker of eye-care products.

Documentum's competitors think the merger with EMC will hamper the content-management vendor. "How lucky can you get?" says Interwoven Inc. CEO Martin Brauns. "They've become captive to a hardware-systems vendor." Interwoven this week will disclose a different approach to supporting content archi- tecture. It plans to build "content networks" to take advantage of Web services to deliver con- tent to mobile devices, support on-demand computing, and move content up and down the supply chain.

Documentum isn't the only content-management vendor seeing promise in combining its software with storage-network technology. IXOS Software AG earlier this month formed an alliance with Storage Technology Corp. IXOS, which is being acquired by knowledge-management vendor Open Text Corp., also revealed a similar agreement with Hitachi Data Systems last month.