HDS Puts Storage at Your Service

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With the launch of its Universal Storage Platform V earlier this week, Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) unveiled more than just a high-end storage array. The company articulated a new message for delivering storage services.

That message is service-oriented storage (SOS), storage services that invoke the service-oriented architecture (SOA) model of distributed computing.

This approach is HDS’ way of making storage more cost-effective in the increasingly on-demand and need-it-now world of Web 2.0. The strategy is designed to help the company gain market share in the high-end space, where it trails EMC and IBM.

Analysts have been calling for vendors to sew storage and SOA together for some time. HDS decided to listen. By pairing virtualization of data into a common pool and thin provisioning to allocate resources that hew to business requirements, HDS hopes to ease customers’ data pains.

“This is going to mark a new era of storage where forcing users to pay for services that go unused to be replaced by storage services that directly tie resources and functionality,” HDS CTO Hu Yoshida said on a conference call Monday.

Such an approach is novel for the biggest storage vendors, although smaller companies such as 3Par have offered thin provisioning for some time. Traditionally, high-end customers figure out how much data they have, how much they plan to have and then buy something to meet application requirements in the middle. Customers buy powerful arrays, such as an EMC Symmetrix, IBM DS8000 or HDS USP IV, and get locked into the product.

The problem is if an administrator guesses too high about the storage capacity that applications need, storage goes unused. If the admin doesn’t purchase enough storage, applications run out of space and crash. Both outcomes mean wasted money.

Yoshida said that HDS’ SOS method, comprised of loosely coupled sets of services in HDS’ virtualized storage controllers that can be invoked by applications on the fly, lets businesses pay for what resources are actually used.

Core to the SOS capability are HDS’ virtualization technology and new Dynamic Provisioning software. HDS obviates the vendor lock-in problem with virtualization tools that let customers pool up to 247 petabytes of external storage from various vendors.

Available as an optional service for USP V, Dynamic “thin” provisioning software lets admins allocate virtual disk storage based on their anticipated future needs without dedicating physical disk storage at the point of sale. If the need for additional capacity arises, it can be purchased later and implemented without disrupting applications.

Moreover, Dynamic Partitioning can be combined with Hitachi’s Virtual Partition Manager software, which links disk, cache and ports to create virtual storage machines. Each machine boasts its own virtual serial number to allow for asset tracking and chargeback.

This means customers can use thin provisioning software for internal storage and virtual storage machines, allowing admins to authorize and trigger exactly what storage services a business needs.

HDS customers are excited by the plan.

Gary Pilafas, managing director of enterprise architecture for United Airlines, testified to the perks of the new Dynamic Provisioning and virtualization combo on the call.

“We expect the new innovations in USP V, like thin provisioning and expanded virtualization software, to have a rather strong economic impact on our datacenters by increasing our utilization rates, lowering our power and cooling costs and lowering our total cost of ownership,” Pilafas said.

Analysts see the value, too.

IDC’s Brad Nisbet said many large organizations are looking to consolidate and reduce the numbers of management points in their environments. Virtualization technologies such as the ones included in the USP platform will be meaningful to these types of customers, he said.

“In addition, the thin provisioning offered on this type of high-end SAN array is a bold move and will also be meaningful to IT organizations looking to support multiple internal departments,” Nisbet said.

Ringing endorsements aside, HDS still has to execute and convince new customers to buy USP V and associated technologies. The next year will be critical for HDS, whose market share for high-end systems (starting at $300,000) decreased 1.5 percent to 15.2 percent in 2006 from 2005, although the company also generates sales through OEM deals with HP and Sun.

Contrast that with EMC’s massive 39 percent stake in high-end storage and IBM’s formidable 24.4 percent portion and HDS has work to do.

Goldman Sachs analysts said in a research note that HDS won’t likely realize returns on USP V and its thin provisioning and virtualization perks until later this year.

But HDS won’t relegate SOS and USP V to the high-end systems unveiled this week; Yoshida said midrange and low-end arrays are in the works. Thanks to prodding from HDS, EMC likely won’t be far behind.

Article courtesy of InternetNews.com

Clint Boulton
Clint Boulton
Clint Boulton is an Enterprise Storage Forum contributor and a senior writer for CIO.com covering IT leadership, the CIO role, and digital transformation.

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