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Hardware & Infrastructure

Storage Smarts

Storage management may not have much sizzle, but it's certainly hot, as companies struggle to make sense of exploding volumes of data.

Storage software sales grew more than 16% last year to nearly $8 billion, market research firm IDC says. Content management is a small but growing part of that: EMC Corp. last week unveiled software to better manage unstructured data. Republic Mortgage says it saved $170,000 using its content-management system.

This week, IBM will detail its storage-virtualization strategy. And Hewlett-Packard enhanced its data-life-cycle-management system last week with improved links for vertical-market applications.


Storage-management technology is usually focused on structured data--uniformly formatted numbers in neat rows and columns--generated by operational systems. But those in the storage business will tell you that 80% of digitized information in a typical company is unstructured data such as documents, E-mails, and images. Such content is growing by 50% every year.

Last week, storage-technology provider EMC Corp. debuted more than 50 products developed by its Documentum unit that the vendor says unify content management under a single architecture. The move addresses a key challenge for Documentum: tying together its products and services into a cohesive framework that lets companies manage content on a large scale, says Joshua Duhl, an IDC research director.

EMC is seeking to make content more relevant to the business process in which it's used. Content management in a business "is about more than creating content, it's about leveraging it to accomplish tasks like product development or loan processing," says Lubor Ptacek, director of product marketing at Documentum.

The pressure to manage unstructured content has intensified in recent years because of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and regulations aimed at specific industries such as financial services, in which companies are required to monitor and store electronic communications for potential violations of securities laws.

Research firm Meta Group estimates that the market for enterprise content-management software and services will grow 15% a year to more than $9 billion in 2007.

The centerpiece of EMC's announcement is a data repository that ties together masses of unstructured content such as E-mails, images, and handwritten documents. It can be accessed from any desktop or by any application, according to EMC.

EMC also unveiled products for creating and searching content. A search engine enables distributed searches, including content residing on non-Documentum platforms. A client interface for Microsoft Outlook allows users to access Documentum applications from within Outlook and store E-mails and attachments within the Documentum repository. The new Content Transformation Services helps users translate files and images between PDF, Microsoft Word, and other file formats.

Alteon, a flight- and maintenance-training subsidiary of Boeing Co., uses Documentum to create training materials and other content. Content Transformation Services will save time and manpower in creating and managing documents, business system manager David Beyers says. It also will help satisfy demands from customers who want documents delivered electronically in multiple formats, he says.

Companies have invested heavily in homegrown systems for creating and managing content. EMC, FileNet, and OpenText are betting that their content-management suites are scalable, secure, and robust enough to displace those systems. Toby Bell, a Gartner research director, says they're also looking to freeze out competitors such as IBM and Oracle, which have been incorporating content-management capabilities into their relational databases.

--Steven Marlin

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