EMC Snoops on Demand

It spent four years ensuring users couldn't cheat on its OpenScale capacity-on-demand program

July 17, 2003

4 Min Read
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After four years of limited availability, EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) is finally widely rolling out its OpenScale capacity-on-demand program this month that lets customers pay only for the storage they need on a monthly basis.

OpenScale, available since 1999, lets customers install standby storage resources and then be able to instantly access them whenever needed. EMC put the program into place to help streamline the procurement process for storage capacity, which can take up to nine months at some corporations -- an unacceptably long time when data needs may be close to doubling every year.

"Customers would run out of storage and want us to overnight disk to them," says Bill Raftery, VP of global financial services at EMC. "That's very risky to their infrastructure."

So why did it take EMC so long to make OpenScale a formal offering? Basically, the company says, because the honor system simply doesn't work in this situation.

EMC needed an automated billing infrastructure that would track a customers' usage without any human intervention and ensure they paid for what they were actually using. Before the automated billing for OpenScale was in place, the process "became very labor intensive," says Raftery. "I had to have the SEs [sales engineers] there on a monthly basis checking on their storage. Then you get into arguments with the customers about what was actually deployed."So you can't just take word of the customer? "No, you can't," Raftery says. "The customer would have a difference of opinion about what was utilized."

Ah. Well, then, technology to the rescue. As part of OpenScale, an application called InfoLease, run on the customer's servers, allows EMC to monitor the entire storage infrastructure -- including storage capacity in Symmetrix or Clariion storage systems; Celerra NAS systems; Connetrix SAN switches; and storage software, including TimeFinder and SRDF (Symmetrix Replication Data Facility). InfoLease periodically connects back to EMC's headquarters and reports on exactly how many terabytes were used, how many Fibre Channel ports were turned on, and so on. Anticipating that some customers may be uncomfortable with this idea, however, EMC adds it has "no visibility into the customer data."

Other storage systems vendors, including Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) and IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), offer similar storage-on-demand programs. But EMC says it has the only fully automated billing infrastructure in the industry, eliminating the guesswork [ed. note: and keeping its customers honest].

The program is currently priced based on how much storage a customer uses per month within preset tiers. For now, OpenScale pricing is negotiated on a per-customer basis; Raftery says EMC expects to have standardized pricing by the end of 2003.

One customer using the OpenScale program is Deloitte Consulting. Eric Eriksen, the firm's CTO, says about three months ago EMC wheeled a Symmetrix 8830 -- fully loaded with around 70 Tbytes -- into Deloitte's Philadelphia data center. But since it leased the Symm under the OpenScale program, it's only paying for the small amount of disk it's currently using."Because of our unique business requirements, we have had to very rapidly make a large amount of disk available, and under the old scheme we couldn't do it fast enough," he says. "This way, we just turn it on."

Eriksen concedes that OpenScale's monitoring aspects seem "a little intrusive," but he points out that Deloitte already uses the call-home feature on the Symmetrix boxes that communicates the health status of the systems back to EMC. On a side note, he says the firm didn't move to the newer Symmetrix DMX because it already had two other 8830s in house and "we weren't ready to replatform... I wouldn't call us skeptics, but, quite frankly, the [DMX] didn't have the capacity we needed." The DMX provides a maximum of 42 Tbytes of raw capacity.

OpenScale is based on technology developed by Luminate Software Corp., a performance monitoring software company EMC bought in September 2001. EMC had previously offered a service that proactively monitored customers' servers through a service called EMCLink.net (see EMC Retools Monitoring Service).

Down the road, EMC plans to add support to OpenScale for heterogeneous storage environments, which would let it monitor competitors' hardware, such as that from HP or Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP), says Raftery. That pretty much turns OpenScale into a sales tool for EMC, doesn't it? "Sure it does," he says. Always thinking, those EMC guys.

Todd Spangler, US Editor, Byte and Switch

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