Permabit Takes Another Bite

Startup positions compliance software as low-cost alternative to EMC's Centera

March 17, 2004

3 Min Read
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Permabit Inc., the startup that challenged EMC Corp.s (NYSE: EMC)Centera with its content-addressed storage system (CAS) last October, is now introducing software designed to help companies conform to compliance regulations -- like software that EMC also sells.

This time, Permabit isn’t claiming technical superiority to EMC. It positions its Compliance Vault as an alternative to EMC's Centera Compliance: Centera-light, if you will. Its pricetag is also lighter than EMC’s.

“We think Centera’s a visionary product,” says Stephen Ellis, Permabit founder and VP of business development. “The only problem we have with it is it only runs on EMC hardware. People like the idea of Centera but don’t want to put up hundreds of thousands of dollars for compliance.”

Pricing for Compliance Vault starts at $60,000 for a 2-Tbyte configuration. The software is sold through resellers and certified to run on hardware from Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), Dell Computer Corp. (Nasdaq: DELL), and boxes from smaller vendors.

Compliance Vault is focused on helping organizations comply with regulations such as SEC 17a-4 in financial services, HIPAA in healthcare, 21 CFR Part 11 in life sciences, and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Retention management is the core function: The software allows companies to set retention periods for each individual record. The retention periods can be extended, or records can be deleted when the retention period ends.While Centera and compliance products from Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP)and IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) integrate hardware and software into a single package, Compliance Vault is sold through partners such as VAR Avnet Hall-Mark and email archiver iLumin as a piece of the package (see Permabit Pushes Pairings).

That gives Permabit no choice but to chase a lower end of the market than that targeted by EMC, NetApp, and IBM .

“Barring an OEM deal with a major storage company, Permabit’s near-term market is small companies,” says Rick Villars, VP for storage systems analysis at IDC. “It’s not a technology issue as much as a business model. They’re taking a lot of the ideas that Centera has and making them available in a software configuration.”

What about beyond the near-term? It wouldn’t be shocking to see Compliance Vault join forces with a major storage vendor. “I do suspect a number of OEMs out there would like to have a bigger presence in compliance,” Villars says.

Permabit was more combative when it launched its first product, Reference Vault, last October (see Permabit Steps on the CAS). Not only did it borrow EMC’s use of the term CAS, but it claimed it could do it better than EMC thanks to an object-based file system written in Java that's designed to store huge amounts of fixed content. To applications accessing the storage, Permabit's software looks like a standard Network File System (NFS) server (see Permabit Launches, Names CEO).Now Permabit is pushing itself as a better "total cost of ownership" alternative than EMC, thanks to lower prices and the use of NFS and Windows-based Common Internet File System (CIFS) interfaces. Support for those interfaces remove the need to use proprietary application programming interfaces (APIs) to link to other applications. Still, Permabit’s use of NFS doesn’t remove interoperability issues completely.

“They’re relying more on NFS, and it’s not as onerous as APIs,” Villars says, "but they still have to do some work with application vendors."

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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