McData Corp. will be announcing by mid-August a product strategy that it says will make it easier for organisations to centralise remote storage needs and perform tasks such as remote backup and electronic discovery.

The strategy, which involves what McData calls applications services modules, will be a series of service applications for tasks such as replication, backup and virtualisation that run on McData storage appliances, said Todd Oseth, chief operating officer at the Broomfield, Colo.-based company.

McData has been working to extend the reach and performance that its director-class switch products can support, Oseth said. For performance reasons, users tend to set up local storage in remote offices, but that strategy has stranded a great deal of vital corporate information, he said.

The stranded data also causes issues with backups, which rely on a local, usually unqualified, workers. It has also created electronic discovery issues, where information needs to be gathered from all remote offices for legal or regulatory purposes.

The new services, which are expected to be rolled out by McData and its partners over the next three to five years, will let organisations consolidate backups across a WAN to a central data center, Oseth said.

Another part of the strategy will use data classification functionality – attaching “metadata” tags of information to both file and block data, Oseth said. McData will likely do this with a technology partner, but it has not yet decided what company it will partner with, he said.

EMC recently announced its intent to incorporate data classification into its products through its acquisitions of Legato Systems Inc. and Documentum Inc. In addition, other storage vendors have made agreements with other data classification vendors. For example, Network Appliance Inc. struck a deal with Kazeon Systems Inc., and Hitachi Data Systems Corp. is partnering Scentric Inc.

StoredIQ Corp. is the only primary vendor in the data classification arena that does not already have an agreement with a major storage vendor. Also, the other vendors’ agreements are mostly non-exclusive, meaning they could hypothetically partner with others or be acquired by McData.

Appliance-based data classification is likely to be available later this year, with integration into director-class switches some time after that, Oseth said.

McData has about $375 million cash on hand, which could be used on acquisitions, Oseth said. While this would not permit a major purchase, the organisations providing the sorts of services McData is looking for are smaller companies, he said. “Taking on a big company wouldn’t be our plan,” he said.

McData will be announcing product availability over the next 30 days and will be getting into a “cadence” of new product releases for the first and third quarters of each year, Oseth said.