StorageTek's LFCM 100 is far from StorageTek's last word on the fixed content storage. In fact it might even be a side channel of the company's mainstream fixed content roadmap. Techworld talked to Laurence James, StorageTek's ILM business manager in the UK.

The ILM in the title is a clue, as StorageTek sees fixed content products or, better, functions, as being part of the overall information lifecycle management processes organisations are adopting.

The LFCM 100 uses Permabit software and is only for sale in North America. It is only the first, and probably ranging, shot in StorageTek's fixed content barrage.

What is fixed content?
Fixed content is that data which has to be kept although it changes little, if at all. It means mortgage records, other loan account records, insurance policies and now, in these days of growing compliance, e-mails, documents and spreadsheets relating to pertinent projects.

It's generally agreed that such data is best kept online when a fast response is needed to inquiries. To avoid enormous disk arrays being used the data is generally divided into chunks and a hash address created for each chunk. This technique can avoid data duplication as second and subsequent copies of a data chunk can be referred to by a pointer. Such content-addressed storage schemes are used by EMC's Centera device, the Archivas H-RAIN technology and StorageTek's LFCM 100.

Where does StorageTek go from here?

Integrated fixed content and STK IP
James first set the scene: "The LFCM 100 is specific to North America. They're way ahead of us here in Europe. We're developing an all-StorageTek IP (intellectual property) fixed content product set. We're not going in Europe with the Permabit software. We'll go with the StorageTek products; their announcement can be expected early next quarter."

That signals the April-May period.

James continued: "We'll have content addressing. We'll focus on its scalability. That's a key area. We also want to have an integrated set of products."

How will they be delivered?

"There will be a completely new generation of BladeStore, with full StorageTek IP. It will be a disk sub-system which gives us a very high write capability. General me-too ATA disks are not designed for supporting very high write rate backups. This product builds on BladeStore (generation) 1. BladeStore 2 equates to a disk buffer building block for two other products."

Virtual tapeand fixed content
"There will be a new virtual tape product early next quarter. It builds on the existing VSM and SN6000 DNA with much higher functionality. This is a virtual tape engine. It will become the data mover for the fixed content engine we're developing."

"There is a hierarchy of storage. And it's integrated. Centera doesn't have ILM; our StorageTek idea does."

StreamLine library
What about the StreamLine library? What role might it play here?

"StreamLine could have a normal tape backup archive file area and a fixed content section. Also all this functionality can be policy-driven, using our Storability disk networking and SAN management technology."

There is something logical and appealing about backups of transactional data and stored copies of fixed content data both ending up in the same library. It makes for a unified storage utility approach and avoids having a parallel but separate fixed content data stirage facility which customers have to source, buy, populate and manager.

Surely it's better to integrate fixed content storage into the overall storage facilities. That's StorageTek's view and we'll see the deliverables taking shape early in the Spring.