Hitachi Data Systems Buyer's Guide -

Hitachi Data Systems Buyer's Guide

Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) is typically regarded as a disk array vendor specializing in large enterprises systems. The company is challenging EMC in the high-end of the disk array space where it had a 13% market share at the end of 2010 according to IDC.

Part of the reason for its ascendancy is its new Hitachi Virtual Storage Platform (VSP) released in 2010. More than 50 percent of VSP sales were into new accounts. This indicates that users are finding this an attractive platform.

But that is far from the only major change to come from HDS recently. It is also heavily investing in the cloud. In fact, it is positioning itself as the ideal repository for cloud content via two recent innovations: the Hitachi Content Platform (HCP) and the Hitachi Data Ingestor (HDI).

"Organizations are looking to move to cloud at their own pace," said Christophe Bertrand, senior director, Product Marketing, Platforms and Business Continuity at HDS. "End users are looking for ways to leverage the cloud in ways that work best for them."

The company divides its products into three main lines: enterprise disk, midrange disk and file/content. Let's take a look at each category.

Enterprise Disk

Hitachi VSP is the enterprise disk platform that took over from the successful Unified Storage Platform (USP). It works in conjunction with Hitachi Command Suite (HCS) management software.

"VSP is the only 3D scaling storage platform designed for all data types (3D scaling delivers a storage environment that is more reliable, dynamic and open)," said Bertrand. "The platform is the only storage architecture that flexibly adapts data storage infrastructures for performance, capacity and multivendor storage, which is key in optimizing return on storage assets."

It also provides low power and physical space consumption via such features as 2.5-inch SAS disk drives to replace traditional 3.5-inch Fibre Channel (FC) drives.

A relatively small VSP can serve as a storage platform that can scale well. Bertrand said it is also the only high-end disk array that can virtualize other disk arrays attached to it, as well as provide file-level data access using a NAS gateway. Or it can manage part of its capacity as object-oriented storage, which is often used for archiving.

"VSP is unique in providing embedded storage virtualization, which enables its enterprise capabilities to extend to external non-enterprise storage systems," said Bertrand. "While it has the ability to scale up to meet increasing server demands and scale out to provide a safe multi-tenant environment for multiple servers, it can extend scale up and out capabilities to external storage."

Pricing starts at $232,000 for a single Hitachi VSD pair controller with 16 FC host ports, 48GB of cache, no disk capacity and Basic operating System (BOS) software, which includes HDP and Device Manager. Software support for 12 months is also included.

Midrange Disk

For those who don't quite need that level of sophistication, HDS has a range of midrange systems. The Hitachi Adaptable Modular Storage (AMS) 2000 family includes the AMS 2100, 2300 and 2500. HDS has included dynamic provisioning to improve utilization rates and simplify storage management. Invented symmetrical active-active controllers give automated I/O balancing.

"AMS includes enterprise storage capabilities that are typically found in high-end arrays," said Bertrand. "It includes dynamic provisioning to improve overall utilization rates and help simplify storage management."

Pricing starts at $15,000.

File and Content

This consists of HCP and HDI. HCP is a virtualized distributed object store with storage and data management capabilities to deal with unstructured data. It can be divided into a number of virtual content platforms, each of which can be configured for a particular workload. This allows IT to manage a single infrastructure that supports a range of data types, applications and users with specific level of service. HDI, on the other hand, acts as an on-ramp to HCP, integrated with a new 40PB capacity for what HDS calls backup-free storage.

"Both offerings help cloud service providers and private IT organizations cost effectively design and build their own infrastructure to store, search, preserve and protect data –- all without disrupting users or applications," said Linda Xu, Senior Director, File, Content and Cloud Services at HDS.

She lays out a use case based on rampant growth of unstructured content and the need to reduce costs. Proper management and handling of this content across distributed IT environments, she said, such as cloud service providers and organizations with branch or remote office sites, is particularly difficult. Distributed IT environments, too, are often saddled with sprawling storage silos for a multitude of applications and workloads, a buildup of backup infrastructure, and inadequate IT resources and safeguards at many locations outside the data center. Enter HCP/HDI.

"HDS provides an integrated portfolio of cloud technologies, solutions and services to simplify and accelerate cloud and distributed IT for end users of all sizes," said Xu. "The new HDI and HCP directly address distributed IT customers' pressing challenges, such as creating and getting data and users into cloud at their own pace by delivering an integrated edge-to-core cloud infrastructure that enables enterprise organizations and cloud service providers to easily, quickly and cost effectively create a cloud-based service."

The ideal workload for HCP, she said, can be qualified in terms of storing large data sets at fewer intervals. HCP was designed to handle the storage and access of "blobs" very efficiently and reliably. Separate metadata tables enable fast queries and data retrieval. In addition, HDI provides faster ingestion into HCPs from an edge-to-core perspective, serving local clients with many small file I/O transactions and backup/recovery requests more effectively.

HCP can be purchased in a range of configurations starting at 4TB and scaling up to 10s of petabytes. System cost will depend on the type and quantity of HDS storage used with the HCP system. Xu said HCP system components and software be purchased for under $0.40/GB when you are buying a lot of it. An HDI license pair starts at $23K list for high availability with built-in tiering included.

Drew Robb is a freelance writer specializing in technology and engineering. Currently living in California, he is originally from Scotland, where he received a degree in geology and geography from the University of Strathclyde. He is the author of Server Disk Management in a Windows Environment (CRC Press).

Ed note: This article was amended on May 10 to reflect the correct market share for HDS. It is 13 percent, not 31 percent as originally stated.

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