CAS to NAS: Migrating from EMC Centera to EMC Isilon

CAS to NAS: Migrating from EMC Centera to EMC Isilon

In the world of data archive storage, EMC Centera has become one of the most successful disk-based devices of all time. Centera provides WORM (write-once-read-many) functionality with much greater performance levels than competing tape and optical technologies, as well as regulatory compliant storage validation for data retention.

While Centera has been successful in its purpose, it has proved complicated in its design. Organizations that have come to depend on Centera have undoubtedly discovered the challenges of migrating data out of Centera once their device reaches “end of life” or the end of its “reasonable service period.”

Challenges with Migrating Off Centera

Writing data to Centera has long been considered a “black box” approach, because Centera stores data as objects with associated content descriptor files (CDFs) instead of storing data in a native file format using standard naming conventions such as DOC, XLS, PDF, etc.

As a result of this black box approach, files and directory structures are not directly viewable to a client workstation, and methods such as Windows copy and paste and DOS xcopy as well as file management utilities cannot be used to migrate data from Centera.

Centera and the Future

While emerging disk-based storage and archive solutions have continued to scale exponentially, the Centera platform hasn’t quite kept pace. This presents a challenge for organizations relying on Centera for their archive needs that are also seeking to capitalize on large-capacity, multi-role storage platforms to centralize their data. Enter EMC Isilon, a fully clustered scale-out storage platform with a broad multi-role capability, including archive.

Organizations currently depending on earlier generations of Centera (Gen 1 through Gen 3) are faced with the very real problem of what to do with their archived data once the product’s service life has ended. Even those using the early-release version of Gen 4 Centera are likely wondering what the next step might be once capacity and support are at an end. The answer is to consider a simple, no-downtime migration to an Isilon solution.

A Migration Solution Using Seven10 StorFirst Software

EMC has partnered with Seven10, a software company founded in 2001, with headquarters in Lawrence, Massachusetts, to provide a software-only, EMC-aligned migration that also natively supports next-generation EMC platforms such as Isilon. The Seven10 StorFirst software solution enables organizations to make a quick and clean migration from NetApp, HP, Dell, and IBM technologies and provides the smoothest migration path from CUA- and DX-driven EMC Centera.

Migrations are fraught with challenges such as “how” and “when” and “what if.” StorFirst guarantees against data loss and can be completed without any interruption to users, meaning that Seven10 has solved the biggest fear factors associated with any data migration process.

Seven10 StorFirst Migration Scenarios to Consider

Here is a quick breakdown of the migration scenarios offered by Seven10 StorFirst:

In-band Migration


Out of Band: DX/CUA Centera

Out of Band: Any NAS Solution

There are always pros and cons to any migration strategy, but the folks at EMC and Seven10 have really found a way to take the pain out of data migration. As you’ve seen here, the StorFirst solution provides for a number of scenarios for a multitude of migration challenges, Centera being one of them.

Please feel free to contact me directly with any questions or concerns about the information presented in this document.


Ben Thurston


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