EMC is filling in the missing link in its storage product range by OEM'ing tape products from ADIC. EMC has a data lifecycle management strategy which clearly needs tape products to provide the foundation of its storage tiers.

EMC already has disk storage, software and services in its line-up. (Its Legato and Documentum acquisitions have been combined into a newly-formed EMC Software Group.) It knows that its customers backup up disk-based information either to disk, or to tape, or to both. This is a need that it is not fulfilling.

More bytes for customer bucks
It also understands that its customers want to deal with storage concerns better and more simply. They want to integrate their various classes of storage devices better together and to manage them better also. The reasons for this are to better protect stored data, to comply with the burgeoning compliance regimes and to spend money on their storage concerns to the best effect. To get the most bytes for their bucks, as it were.

Currently around 66 percent of EMC's 500 largest customers use three or more tiers of EMC storage. Adding tape will cement those customers' relationship with EMC. AS we noted here EMC has been pretty clear about a role for backup in its products. CEO Joe Tucci discussed this in a recent Goldman Sachs presentation, in which he said that EMC wants to offer a choice of data protection and identified two separate markets.

First, there is the traditional backup/recovery market with tape. Then there is the disk storage data protection area with replication, snaps and clones. Tucci said: "By combining these two technologies together this is going to be the future of what customers will use... We have all the pieces. We want to marry the best."

As the company's web site states, 'Our vision is to create the ultimate information lifecycle management company¬óto help our customers get the maximum value from their information at the lowest total cost, at every point in the information lifecycle.'

Transparent data movement
However, it's not just the need to have entry points in each storage tier. Data has to be moved bi-directionally from tier-to-tier as its value changes. At an analysts' event on June 10th EMC outlined its approach to allow for the non-disruptive movement and migration of data across the storage infrastructure. The company previewed new, software capabilities to allow organisations to create and automate storage policies based on business processes that will automatically assign and move content among different tiers of storage.

It also detailed the incremental opportunity that ILM is creating for advanced replication capabilities and the demand for greater functionality within various tiers of storage, including EMC's traditional high-end and mid-tier networked storage families, content addressed storage (CAS), disk libraries, offline vaulting, iSCSI and entry-level SANs.

Need for separate storage resource
EMC believes that storage, like networking, has nearly become a separate resource within the IT infrastructure and will continue to separate itself from the generality of IT. Whether the result is called a storage utility or not it has to function as a multi-tiered set of functionally-different information silos that are seamlessly inter-connected and are represented to accessing servers as a relatively simple storage resource.

Accessing storage service-requesting servers don't want to see this complexity. They just want to read a file or write a record, complete a transaction or check an e-mail. The storage software, together with IT policies can decide where the information resides to optimise access speed, compliance integrity and storage costs.

Few companies are in a position to supply a full set of storage platforms and software to manage them. They include HP, IBM and also Dell among the server vendors. EMC and StorageTek are the only independent storage vendors with across-the-board offerings.

The big four
As the storage needs of customers grow - and information growth seems to be on a permanently inclined gradient - then their storage infrastructure simply has to grow too. And that it means it will get more and more complex to acquire, maintain and best support the business. Larger and mid-range customers may well see the appeal of stopping the purchase of best-of-breed products from different suppliers and integrating the bits themselves or with a storage services consultancy. Hand the job over to a full range storage supplier instead.

That thinking will lead them increasingly towards EMC, HP, IBM and StorageTek, the big four. It may make life more difficult for NetApp as its customers potentially wonder why NetApp doesn't have a tape-based tier amongst its storage platforms.

It also means that suppliers of individual storage products will find it appealing to gain and hold on to OEM contracts with the big four. This is part of ADIC's thinking.

It has many OEM relationships and good relationships with EMC and IBM. For example, it has expanded its relationship with IBM by signing an additional agreement to license part of IBM's tape automation technology. The companies also signed a patent cross-licensing agreement covering their respective patent portfolios in the area of storage.

As part of the agreement EMC is taking Clariion CX arrays and reselling them as part of its Pathlight virtual tape disk-to-disk-to-tape backup product. EMC has thus gained another sales channel for its Clariion arrays.

Another of ADIC's recent OEM deals is with Compagnie Generale de Geophysique. It allows CGG to resell ADIC's StorNext data management software and Scalar tape libraries and to install and manage systems based on ADIC products in customer sites on a worldwide basis.

And the company has a relationship with Apple also.

For StorageTek and ADIC this EMC announcement can be seen as good news, validating the approaches of both companies. From StorageTek's viewpoint it's a case of EMC validating StorageTek's pioneering ILM work. For other tape drive and library suppliers the picture may now be firming up to a future where, unless they have OEM deals with the big four or any new full-range storage supplier then the enterprise customer markets may become increasingly harder to sell into.