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Content-Addressable Storage

Content-addressable storage provides a solid foundation for data archiving, and major storage vendors are rolling out product offerings. We discuss the drivers for implementing CAS as well as what the

   

There's been a lot of buzz in legal circles recently about United States v KPMG LLP. Short story, the feds accused the accounting firm of cooking up illegal tax shelters for rich clients. What caught our eye isn't the $456 million the firm will pay or even the $2.5 billion in evaded taxes. We noticed the case thus far has generated, in electronic or paper form, 5 million to 6 million pages of discoverable documents, of all shapes, sizes and types. That, my friends, is a prime example of why data-retention and digital-discovery requirements have lit a fire under the normally staid archival market.

Vendors are touting CAS (content-addressed storage), a once-boutique technology, as a way to make discovery requests more manageable. In a nutshell, a CAS system locates data by an array-assigned address, rather than by physical address or directory. Because the CAS device completely abstracts data from the hardware on which it resides, documents can be found based on content, rather than by storage location.

The earliest entry into this space, EMC's Centera, first released in 2002, is still the clear market leader in terms of CAS-capable units--mainly because EMC was first with a strong play. We use the term market loosely: IT's initial reaction to the Centera product--and CAS storage in general--was apathy with a side of confusion. Lacking the compliance impetus that drives today's business, enterprises weren't inclined to tweak their shiny new storage-area networks. EMC also bore some blame: Centera then required extensive software modifications to systems.

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