Hitachi to unveil high-end storage array

Hitachi Data Systems Corp. is expected to roll out a high-end storage array that runs long-promised data pooling and replication software that will let users support multi-vendor storage systems from one interface.

Universal Storage Platform, dubbed Lightning 3, is set to be unveiled at an event in New York. The company declined to comment on its plans.

Virtualization, or pooling of data on arrays from different vendors, has been a desire of customers who want to consolidate their storage platforms and manage them together.

While David Bratt, technology architect for H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla., has not had a chance to beta-test the new product, he is interested in it because it would solve many of his daily problems.

“Virtualization is a huge advantage for me for management purposes, as well as a cost savings, since I can attach more servers through a single Fibre Channel port,” says Bratt, who manages a heterogeneous storage environment with a Hitachi 9570V and 9910V, direct-attached SCSI storage and IBM Corp.’s proprietary Serial Storage Architecture system.

“Better storage utilization is also an outcome,” Bratt says.

Analysts say Universal Storage Platform will have several models, and will include virtualization software on a blade in a storage controller and have the capability to replicate information across unlimited distances to dissimilar storage arrays for disaster-recovery purposes. Hitachi will be the first major vendor to integrate heterogeneous rather than homogeneous virtualization and replication features onto a storage controller.

“The box is an…array with significant amounts of cache and performance,” says an analyst who asked not to be identified. “Not only will the Hitachi array be able to pool data from a variety of sources but it will be able to use a single replication and management technology to move data between different arrays.”

The array, which will scale into the multi-petabyte range, will support Fibre Channel, IBM’s mainframe connectivity ESCON/FICON technologies and iSCSI, which lets users attach storage-area networks (SAN) to an Ethernet network. The array is expected to combine network-attached and SAN data into one virtualized storage pool.

Analysts say the Hitachi announcement could give the company an important tool to battle competitors. According to Gartner, Hitachi external controller-based storage accounts for about 8 percent of the market, trailing EMC, which has a 21 per cent market share, and HP, which has almost 19 per cent. The product also addresses the need for a heterogeneous storage virtualization strategy.

“Vendors have done a disservice to the industry — we’ve had vendors trying to misconstrue basic (logical unit) and volume management as virtualization,” says Stephanie Balaouras, senior analyst for The Yankee Group. “But true heterogeneous systems integration and the virtualization of replication and back-up technologies hasn’t been there.”

The Universal Storage Platform also will incorporate different classes of storage, such as Fibre Channel and Serial ATA, from different vendors to accommodate the ability to place storage on the appropriate media for information life-cycle management.

This capability will let Hitachi “provision multiple classes of storage from high-performance disk storage systems to high-capacity (Serial ATA) arrays and tape using a centralized console,” said John Webster, senior analyst for the Data Mobility Group, in a research perspective. This console is expected to be Hitachi’s HiCommand Storage Area Management Suite, which is Storage Management Initiative Specification-enabled (SMI-S). SMI-S is intended to let any vendor’s storage array, switch or tape library be managed by a set of standard tools.

Placing virtualization and replication software on a SAN-based device has reached a fever pitch in the last year. While the market is immature, vendors, including startups DataCore Software Corp. and FalconStor Software Inc., have shipped virtualization servers. McData Corp. and Brocade Communications Systems Inc. are putting virtualization and other storage services such as replication and volume management on their Fibre Channel switches.

Late last year, IBM announced a deal with Cisco Systems Inc. to put its SAN Volume Controller (SVC) virtualization software on Cisco MDS 9000 Fibre Channel switches. IBM also sells hardware/software-based SVC separately. EMC has promised a storage router and high-end array for delivery next year that will virtualize heterogeneous devices and provide replication capabilities. Unlike Hitachi’s, these devices are separate from the array and introduce new equipment onto the SAN.

With Universal Storage Platform, Hitachi also is expected to unveil a virtual machine technology in which the replication and movement of data is virtualized much as it is in IBM’s Dynamic Logical Partitions, which lets a server be divided into independent virtual servers or logical partitions.

Pricing for the array was not available by press time.

Sun is expected to announce that it will resell the Hitachi array as part of its StorEdge family. HP, which sells the Hitachi array on an OEM basis, will announce its new storage array, the StorageWorks XP12000, in a separate event, sources say.

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