IBM to Build on Bycast

IBM will extend Bycast's CAS system to non-medical verticals UPDATED 5:15 PM

April 24, 2007

3 Min Read
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Amid a slew of tape-related announcements today, IBM revealed an expanded OEM agreement with Bycast, a maker of hardware-independent software for content-addressable storage (CAS).

Since 2005, IBM has offered Bycast's StorageGRID software in its Grid Medical Archive solution. The joint product, which includes IBM storage arrays and xSeries servers, is sold mainly to hospitals and other healthcare providers. IBM sells the package as an archive for data from Picture Archive and Communication System (PACS) applications and other medical records. The Iowa Health System and Georgia/South Carolina's University Health Care System Augusta is among IBM's StorageGRID customers.

Big Blue intends to expand on its Bycast deal by offering a product called IBM System Storage Multilevel Grid Access Manager (GAM). Based on the Bycast StorageGRID, the software, due for availability June 7 at a starting price of $6,000, will be the basis for customized solutions for a range of vertical markets.

The news is interesting on several fronts. Bycast is one of the world's only software-based CAS systems, which makes it portable across heterogeneous arrays, as opposed to tied to a vendor's hardware, as is EMC's Centerra. Startup Caringo is another. (See Caringo.) And up to now, Canada-based Bycast has made no moves to expand its focus beyond the healthcare vertical.

IBM's news changes things, but it won't take effect right away. IBM is in effect sending up a trial balloon, offering GAM as the basis for larger-scale custom projects, starting with medical solutions that aren't just resold versions of the joint package."Near-term, the first step will be using the software in our own medical space... We will eventually stop selling branded Bycast... Within the next month, you'll see more on this," says IBM System Storage direct of product marketing Charlie Andrews. The "more" is apparently the addition of hardware and software to streamline other CAS systems on a custom basis and eventually for other specific markets.

At least some of these additions could help address complaints about CAS in general, including that it does not support tape, lacks speed, and won't run on multivendor systems. Indeed, IBM is stressing Big Blue's ability to modify Bycast to make it even more heterogeneous, as well as more scalable and secure.

Bycast declined to answer email and phone queries at press time. But the firm, which opened in 1999 and has gleaned at least $14.4 million in several funding rounds, also has attracted attention from HP, which partners with Bycast to offer its own HP Medical Archive Solution.

HP says IBM is just catching up. "We've been an OEM of Bycast for several years... It seems IBM is catching up to where we started a couple of years ago," says Bennett Davies, business development manager for HP Healthcare Industry Marketing. While HP doesn't plan to extend Bycast beyond the medical vertical for now, he notes that HP has sold its product without Bycast branding for two years.

The news comes as CAS itself looks poised for growth. (See CAS Matures, Confusion Remains and In Depth: CAS.) Caringo, for instance, now boasts 30 customers, and the startup just recently announced a major medical customer, ZirMed, which provides financial solutions to healthcare providers. What's more, Caringo is ready for its technology to move in other directions. "CAS as an architecture has more going for it than to be an archiving infrastructure," said Paul R. Carpentier, CTO of Caringo, at SNW last week.Caringo had not responded to requests for comment on IBM's news at press time.

Besides the Bycast deal, IBM announced a series of LTO-4 tape drives, which effectively double the previous LTO-3 capacities while running 50 percent faster. The systems support SAS and Fibre Channel can handle up to 10 Tbytes at the high end. They feature application-level encryption. IBM is offering a new tape virtualization engine with encryption, improved caching, and hardware-assisted compression.

Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

  • Bycast Inc.

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • IBM Corp.

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