IBM's Compliance in a Cabinet

IBM unveils a head-on competitor for EMC's Centera compliance box

February 20, 2004

2 Min Read
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IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) today rolled out its heavy artillery in the compliance wars -- a cabinet filled with previously available hardware and software, wrapped up in services to help companies understand the new regulations they must comply with.

So is this the all-in-one device that can overcome EMC Corp.'s (NYSE: EMC) Centera compliance system, or just a bunch of parts thrown together? Could be a bit of both.

IBM has a broader collection of products than everybody else has,” says Jack Scott, partner at Evaluator Group. “They’ve been in this business for quite a long while. Now this brings a lot of their resources together."

The system, which IBM calls TotalStorage Data Retention 450, consists of IBM Tivoli Storage Manager for Data Retention software, combined with pSeries Power processor-based entry-level servers with FastT storage. The system scales from 3.5 terabytes to 56 terabytes. It also supports tape libraries from IBM and other vendors.

The software is the key to the system’s compliance functionality. The application lets companies keep data such as email, instant messages, and other business transactions indefinitely, delete it based on a retention event, or set a predetermined expiration date. Regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley, the Health Insurance Portability Accounting Act (HIPAA), and SEC 17a-4 mandate businesses retain business records for set periods of time.Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP), Storage Technology Corp. (StorageTek) (NYSE: STK), and others have systems tailored for complying with regulations, although EMC’s Centera, which has functionality comparable to what IBM's touting, has been considered the standard for all-in-one compliance devices. (Unlike IBM, though, EMC doesn't offer its own tape drives.) IBM announced its compliance initiative in November, yet lacked a head-to-head competitor with EMC until now (see IBM Chases Compliance Dollars).

Evaluator Scott thinks IBM's offering will tug at EMC's influence, mainly by bringing together a clump of solid resources. It also doesn't hurt that IBM, ever the service company, is offering consulting along with its compliance cabinet. “Most of compliance is about understanding the law,” he says. “No single product is going to solve this problem for everybody. You need hardware, software, and services.”

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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