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Hitachi Data Systems: Continuous Cloud Infrastructure

The "cloud" is the code word for many things, including data center transformation. Current IT infrastructures in the data center are often overly complex and expensive as they try to minimize costly downtime in a world that more and more requires 24x7 information access. Managing IT infrastructures more efficiently and effectively is therefore critical.

In other words, infrastructure matters, and in the case of Hitachi Data Systems, the company emphasizes the need to improve IT under the label "continuous cloud infrastructure." This approach to cloud seeks to eliminate service disruptions (high availability), manage to service levels (which requires automation) and accelerating time to deployment (in order to get faster time-to-value).

Hitachi’s recent launch focused on four key foundations for the infrastructure. The company is no Johnny-come-lately to the storage virtualization game. Although the meaning and capability of storage virtualization has expanded over the years, Hitachi was early to the game and now has expanded its vision with a Storage Virtualization Operating System (SVOS). And any infrastructure has to feature real hardware, so Hitachi has introduced the Virtual Storage Platform G1000 as the high end of its enterprise-class platforms. IT obviously needs a way to manage the storage infrastructure, which is the role of the Hitachi Command Suite v8. Moreover, storage should not be an isolated island in the IT infrastructure, but has to work together with servers and networks, and the role of the company’s Unified Compute Platform Director 3.5 is to ensure that orchestration.


Hitachi’s SVOS

Modern storage arrays are software-driven in the sense that what makes them tick is software managing I/Os and storage management tasks, such as thin provisioning. That software starts with an operating system (OS).

SVOS is the 6th generation of Hitachi's enterprise storage operating system. It brings enterprise-class strength to features, such as tiering, replication and security. Hitachi intends for SVOS to be the operating system for future Hitachi storage solutions and builds upon Hitachi’s previous investments in storage virtualization in previous versions. SVOS decouples the OS from the physical hardware and enables storage to be managed as a common pool of resources (even across tiers) with a common set of management tools.

SVOS supports virtualization for storage analogously to what server virtualization does for servers. That means that SVOS can create virtual storage machines that are supported in the physical arrays. SVOS is Hitachi's foundation for its capabilities in virtualization, high availability, storage performance, and tiering management.

SVOS enables global storage virtualization, which is to say the ability to have clustered active-active systems at multiple locations. Active-active or dual active is essential for supporting high availability. This capability is very important for servers, which have applications that require high availability, but the point of Hitachi’s SVOS is that to work properly, those servers must have the support of equally highly available storage.

Hitachi Virtual Storage Platform (VSP) G1000

The Virtual Storage Platform (VSP) is Hitachi's enterprise-class storage product, and the new Platform G1000 is the new top end of the VSP line with over three times the read and write performance of the previous VSP platform. The VSP G1000 can unify block, file and object data in one platform, which makes it very flexible to changing business requirements. In addition, one of the benefits of the VSP G1000 is the ability to separate storage controllers of a single system by up to 100 meters. This is useful for tactical data center planning, such as avoiding hotspots.

Technology refresh is a term that makes many in IT cringe. Storage arrays often are changed every three years or so, but the planning to migrate data can seem like an endless process. The actual migration is a worrisome process, as the time to copy data from one system to another can be long and the risk of failure real.

Hitachi promises relief. It claims to double the normal life because of performance and scalability of the new VSP G1000. Then SVOS uses virtual storage machines that supports non-disruptive migration, which reduces the risk of the overall process.

Hitachi Command Suite (HCS) v8

IT needs a software platform to manage its storage environment. HCS is the software management framework for Hitachi’s storage environments. The term “single pane of glass” is frequently used by Hitachi and other vendors, but I have long preferred a similar phrase, “one window to the world,” which also implies a single interface to be able to do a wealth of storage management tasks interactively. Among the key tasks that IT needs to perform with the storage environment are:

Discover – discover and inventory storage assets.

Control – speed up the process of storage provisioning for new applications while, in 
general, reducing over-provisioning of storage assets.

Monitor – monitor performance and capacity usage for improved service level management.

Protect – administer replication and data protection policies.

Cost management – track storage infrastructure costs.

Hitachi’s HCS v8 introduces a RESTful API interface. REST (Representational state transfer) enables a platform and language-independent interface with HTTP so that HTTP tools, such as those supporting security, caching, and firewalls, can be used seamlessly. In addition, every resource and resource interconnection can have a uniform resource identifier (URI) that makes it easier to access resources and to understand the relationship to other resources. This enables better management integration, such as with performance and capacity statistics.

Unified Compute Platform (UCP) Director 3.5

The Unified Compute Platform is Hitachi’s entry into the converged infrastructure space, and combines storage, server, networking, and software management in integrated pack- ages for applications, such as desktop and server virtualization, database management and business analytics. A key software capability is Hitachi’s UCP Director 3.5 software, which, among other things, provides VMware vCenter Server-integrated management and orchestration.

UCP Director 3.5 provides support for Hitachi’s SVOS and VSP G1000 systems, and is also useful for cloud deployments via its automated and orchestrated servers, networking and storage management capabilities. It delivers an integration point for self-service management tools and service templates, as well as API integration with cloud operating systems, i.e., OpenStack.

Mesabi Musings

Stressing fundamentals is not only important for sports, but also businesses as well. What Hitachi has done with its latest set of announcements is stress and support the fundamentals for enabling a continuous cloud infrastructure. The company’s SVOS validates the need to separate logical storage from physical storage in a way analogous to how server virtualization separates virtual machines from physical machines.

The new Hitachi VSP G1000 platform provides high end performance and scalability that more and more IT organizations require. The new Hitachi Command Suite v8 provides the necessary user management capabilities to play in a cloud-enabled world. Finally, Hitachi’s Unified Compute Director 3.5 provides customers looking for a simplified deployment in a converged solution (servers, storage, and network) framework the software glue that both the SVOS and VSP G1000 require.

Hitachi faces a highly competitive world against EMC, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, NetApp and others. Cloud is of growing importance to all of these players, and cloud solutions represent “table stakes” for modern storage vendors. Hitachi is betting a lot of chips that it can distinguish itself with these four foundational products in order to showcase its role as a leading storage vendor in the cloud.

David Hill is Principal at Mesabi Group, his industry analyst firm that focuses on the information technology infrastructure. He is the author of “Data Protection: Governance, Risk Management, and Compliance.” He has spent many years in the IT industry in a wide variety of roles.

About the Mesabi Group
:The Mesabi Group (www.mesabigroup.com) helps organizations make their complex storage, storage management, and interrelated IT infrastructure decisions easier by making the choices simpler and clearer to understand.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Tags: Cloud Storage, Hitachi, Cloud Infrastructure, data systems


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