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EMC has put the squeeze on its Centera storage system aimed at archiving information. The company has announced a new, smaller and less expensive version of the Centera box, hoping to attract medium-sized companies to its relatively unique system.

The new Centera - rather unceremoniously named "the four-node configuration" - will cost close to $100,000 and store up to 2.2TB of data. The current lowest-end version of EMC's eight-node Centera costs 35 percent more for close to 3.6TB of storage capacity.

"We found that there were some customers out there who said, 'I just can't fathom needing more than 2TB for my fixed content,'" said Steve Spataro, a product marketing manager at EMC. "That's where this new system comes in."

In the past, a four-node Centera would not have been practical because of the way EMC had designed the system. At least two of the nodes in the Centera would have been used to access the network and would only have limited use disk drives. If a customer then wanted to mirror the drives, they would basically have been left with one usable drive on a four-node system.

EMC, however, has recently updated its Centera software so that the "access" drives can be used fully to store data as well. So a four-node system is truly a four-node system.

Each node - or server - in the new Centera will hold four 320GB drives. Multiply that times 4 and mirror it, and you're left with close to the 2.2TB of usable capacity.

The Centera systems have been aimed at customers looking to archive information on disk. EMC describes the boxes as the perfect products for storing "fixed content" or data that is not going to change. Most often, EMC points to images, e-mail, X-rays and medical records as the types of files meant to find their way onto a Centera.

The smaller system could go to a mid-sized hospital, for example, or a five-person company "that houses drug information for Merck or Pfizer," Spataro said.

One of the nicer features about the 7U, four-node Centera for medium-sized customers is that it will fit in existing racks. EMC has typically asked customers to purchase its rack for the larger box.

Has EMC gone low enough on price to attract an entirely new customer base for Centera? It's hard to say.

Having a disk-based system specially aimed at fixed content is still a relatively new concept. Companies of all sizes could use such a box, but it might be hard for smaller firms to justify a completely new $100,000 box for their SANs(storage area networks).

The four-node Centera goes on sale worldwide later this month. ®

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