IBM Bundles Servers, Storage, Software For Compliance And Data Retention

New system combines off-the-shelf components to help users meet regulatory compliance requirements.

February 20, 2004

4 Min Read
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IBM on Thursday unveiled a new bundle of servers, storage and software aimed at helping customers retain and preserve electronic business records in response to government and industry regulations.

While EMC is tackling compliance issues with its Centera storage appliance and vendors such as Network Appliance and Hitachi Data Systems are bundling their storage arrays with software from third-party developers, the IBM TotalStorage Data Retention 450 brings together off-the-shelf components currently available from IBM and allows solution providers to offer a variety of value-adds, said Alan Stuart, chief strategist for IBM compliance and data retention solutions.

The 450 is based on IBM's pSeries servers, FAStT storage arrays and Tivoli Storage Manager for Data Retention. The software includes the ability to create data-retention policies which can be triggered by specific events. For instance, when a bank account is opened, the bank cannot know how long the customer will keep the account open and so cannot specify the length of time of data retention for information regarding the account. However, the bank can specify that data about the account should be deleted three years after the account is closed, and the software can handle the timing, Stuart said.

The software also allows a delete request to be held if, for instance, a customer is sued and needs to keep particular data longer than originally expected, Stuart said. For example, some records may be scheduled to be deleted two years after an account closes, but if the company is sued and the lawsuit takes 10 years, the delete request can be put on hold and the data can be retained throughout the period. After all legal issues are resolved, the data can be reset to its original deletion schedule.

Solution providers can add additional components to the 450 solution when necessary, Stuart said. This is especially important when customers require tiered storage, where data that must be retained but that is not accessed regularly can be migrated to lower-cost storage devices such as optical drives or tape in order to free up costly hard-drive storage. "A lot of data goes inactive within a year and then is never accessed," he said.The 450's management interface allows it to be installed quickly to SANs based on IBM- and non-IBM equipment and run under a variety of operating systems, including Solaris, AIX, Windows, HP-UX and z/OS, Stuart said.

It also installs easily, Stuart said. "Just add the customer's IP addresses and their retention policies. That's all. Oh, they have to unpack it, too."

IBM is offering five different configurations. The base version includes two p615 servers, each with one POWER 4++ processor with active and passive clustering, a FAStT 600 array with 3.5 Tbytes of SATA hard drive storage and the software. The cost of this bundle is about $141,600, or about $40 per Gbyte. The FAStT can be upgraded to up to 7 Tbytes of data without adding an additional controller. At its maximum configuration of 56 Tbytes, the price per Gbyte drops to about $13. Shipment is expected to start next month, Stuart said.

In May, IBM plans to introduce WORM (write-once, read-many) tape drives which can also be added to the 450, said Stuart.

Solution providers said the 450 bundle can help them work with customers to address compliance issues related to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, HIPAA and other government regulations, though they have some hesitations.TSG Server and Storage, Edina, Minn., has been targeting health-care clients using the Tivoli software for some time, said Joel Kaiser, account executive at the IBM solution provider.

The opportunity for low-cost bundles in the space is high as HIPAA regulations change every year. However, he said the 450 bundle is not quite as easy a concept as Stuart makes it seem.

"The bundle is easier to buy, as there's only one SKU instead of five. But you still have to know what Tivoli does," he said.

David Stone, executive vice president at Solutions-II, an Englewood, Colo.-based IBM solution provider, also said Tivoli offers a robust compliance solution. "But it takes time to implement if you want to do it properly," he said.

The biggest benefit of the 450 is that IBM is delivering it as an appliance but allows solution providers to expand on it, Stone said. "That's the real reason why anybody buys any appliance. It's much simpler to have a system put together. And in this market, time is of the essence."This article courtesy of CRN.

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