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EMC Enters Utility Computing Game

Consistent with what has quickly become an industry-wide trend to give customers more control over the computing resources they need, storage systems provider EMC Monday unveiled a new billing tool for customers to buy storage when they require it.

Called OpenScale, the Hopkinton, Mass. company has quietly been using the capacity-on-demand feature for quite some time as part of its storage asset and financial management program. It automates billing for customers' networked storage infrastructure from soup to nuts, including storage capacity, SAN switch ports, NAS servers and storage software.

Such utility computing features are becoming increasingly prevalent in a time when the weak economic pulse is beating for lowering the total-cost-of-ownership while raising return-on-investment.

The thinking is that, rather than buy powerful computing systems and let them sit idle when power is not needed, customers can call upon resources as they need them, akin to drawing water from a faucet.

With OpenScale, EMC has leapt into a fray populated by IBM , Veritas and Computer Associates , HP and Sun Microsystems .

Arun Taneja, founder and consulting analyst or The Taneja Group, said there "is no question in his mind" that all large enterprises have or will become a storage utility.

"In other words, they will use tools to charge their users an appropriate amount, based upon usage. If EMC offers tools to IT shops to enable this functionality I am in favor of it. I think the customer will also like the idea of paying EMC based upon the storage they used in total and no more. But given that new storage invariably costs less, pricing these services is tricky business."

OpenScale, which provides billing for EMC's Symmetrix, CLARiiON, Connectrix and Celerra systems, aims to provide users with access to pre-installed storage capacity and other storage resources. The software lets customers allocate additional storage resources on demand, but be billed only for the resources used.

The product relies on the same "collector technologies," or Web-oriented monitoring, found within EMC AutoAdvice software, part of the EMC ControlCenter family of open software products. The collector learns when pre-installed storage capacity, SAN switch ports, NAS servers and storage software are allocated by the business and pipes that information to EMC's OpenScale.

Eric Eriksen, Chief Technology Officer, Deloitte Consulting, vouched for the software, noting that his company had to embark on a lengthy process to determine need, place an order, receive the storage, integrate and test it before it could complete tasks.

"OpenScale strips out this entire layer of complexity, significantly improves our ability to respond and gives us the flexibility of a fully configured environment that we can tap into on demand," Eriksen said.