EMC set to offer network file server

EMC Corp., already a leading vendor in the federal mainframe storage market, will continue evolving its product line this fall with a highly anticipated entry into the network file server market.

Like its recently released Media Server, which handles images and video, EMC's new network file server will be based on standard system components overlaid with EMC-developed software that manages data files for network-based applications.

Based on requirements defined in part by federal government customers, the file server is being designed to provide rapid access to large, mission-critical files in a distributed environment.

EMC expects to be able to move data at speeds approaching 200G an hour while serving multiple platforms, the company said. "You can re-architect the way you put together your data center based on that box," said Jack Rothschild, the manager of government marketing at EMC, Hopkinton, Mass.

EMC already has a presence in most federal agencies, said Robert Fratarcangelo, EMC's federal district manager. The company's largest customers include the Defense Department megacenters, the Navy, the Social Security Administration and the Health Care Financing Administration.

The new product is based largely on EMC's Symmetrix storage subsystem. However, rather than handling blocks of data on a disk, the server will have the intelligence to manage data in files, said Gil Press, the manager of marketing for the network storage group at EMC.

The key component of the network product is Data Access in Real Time (DART), a real-time embedded operating system that is tightly integrated with microcode from EMC's Symmetrix storage subsystem and runs on a cluster of Intel Corp. Pentium processors.

EMC plans to target the Unix market first, followed by Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT, while supporting any number of network interfaces, such as Ethernet, Fiber Distributed Data Interface and Asynchronous Transfer Mode.

Potentially, given the road the company has taken, EMC may be moving toward developing a universal server - one that integrates data from legacy and open-systems platforms, analysts said.

"If you have a box that's sitting on the network that serves data for different operating systems - but it's the same data, the same files - you've essentially married those two environments, and the need for middleware goes away," said John Webster, a senior analyst at The Yankee Group.

The new direction continues an evolution that has seen EMC expand its Symmetrix subsystem product line from mainframe storage to open-systems platforms, including the ability to partition and store data from both platforms on the same system.

Although the network-attached servers represent a new direction, EMC continues its strategy of adding capabilities with new software, not hardware. "The only thing we manufacture is microcode," Fratarcangelo said.

In its earlier ground-breaking work with remote copy functions, data migration and other functions, EMC "has put together some incredible microcode to make it all work," said Carl Greiner, vice president and service director at The Meta Group, a Westport, Conn.-based consulting firm. "They keep building on this microcode, and now the base is very stable," Greiner said.

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