EMC has added a search capacity to its Centera storage system to make it easier for users to find files and determine the amount of capacity they are using.

Called Centera Seek, the search facility indexes the metadata kept for files stored on the system. EMC will also launch Centera Chargeback Reporter - software that lets IT managers charge departments or business units for using Centera.

Centera is used for archiving fixed content - files such as medical images, e-mail archives or check images that don't change over time and need to be saved for government and regulatory compliance.

Introduced in April 2002, Centera is a centerpiece of EMC's information life-cycle management strategy. Each Centera box consists of a number of nodes that can provide as much as 41 TB of capacity per rack. Individual nodes can be clustered for as much as a petabyte of capacity.

When data is stored on Centera, it is assigned a unique content address and a metadata reference. Customers retrieve Centera data by writing custom scripts or applications that search the system for the metadata references. The Seek technology indexes the content addresses and metadata and lets users perform queries to extract and retrieve data without using custom scripts or applications.

"Seek is constantly monitoring what's in the library, so you can just go to that catalog to find something when you need it," says Randy Kerns, a senior analyst for Evaluator.

Centera Chargeback Reporter, which requires Centera Seek, continually monitors Centera and the files stored on it. Because it always has an up-to-date picture of Centera's contents, administrators can use it to charge divisions or departments for their use of Centera storage. Charges also can be by application such as e-mail or medical images.

EMC's Centera competes with HP's Reference Information Storage System, IBM's TotalStorage DR550, Permabit's Permeon, and Network Appliance's NearStore R200. Unlike these other products, EMC's Centera allows querying of data. Like Permabit's Permeon, Centera indexes the metadata repository.

Centera Seek and Chargeback Reporter require a dedicated server running Red Hat Linux Enterprise Server 3.0. Centera Seek starts at $4,000 for four Centera nodes. Centera Chargeback Reporter is $1,000 for four nodes. Both are expected to be available at the end of March.