HDS Throws Lightning Strike


Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) is set to launch the next-generation of its high-end Lightning storage system, a machine that some experts expect will be more advanced than anything rivals EMC and IBM have on the market.

Called TagmaStore, or Lightning III, the third iteration of the company's system will feature virtualization and replication features, according to sources familiar with the company's plans.

HDS plans to unveil the array at a press event in New York City on September 7. In its note to the press, HDS described the launch as a "revolutionary storage announcement," but company spokespeople declined to provide more details when contacted.

According to analysts, the company will trot out several versions, including a blade system. The systems, which will support Fibre Channel , ESCON , FICON and iSCSI protocols, will use asynchronous and synchronous replication to copy data across distances to disparate storage arrays.

The company's storage management software is also expected to be upgraded to work with machines from rivals. But while EMC's Symmetrix and IBM's Shark provide most of these technologies, the real key will be the improved virtualization.

Virtualization, which allows users to provision several flavors of storage from disk storage systems to arrays and tape using one unified interface, has become popular in the past year, with IBM and EMC promising new virtualization capabilities for their storage customers.

Being the first to deliver such capabilities in a high-end storage array could prove to be an advantage for HDS, which is seeking to pick up market share in a lucrative space where systems can cost $1 million or more.

Analysts recognize high-end storage as a multi-billion-dollar industry, driving the storage systems market. In the latest Gartner estimates, HDS had a 6.9 percent share of the external disk storage systems market, with EMC leading at 23.1 percent and IBM at 13.2 percent.

One analyst familiar with the company's plans said the TagmaStore news is much more than just a "speeds and feeds" announcement.

"It really is a new approach to storage, and it will actually be a significant upgrade to anything currently on the market," the analyst told internetnews.com under condition of anonymity. "We do expect IBM will be announcing some innovative products soon, as well."

IBM already manufactures certain products with virtualization capabilities, such as the SAN File System and SAN Volume Controller, both of which work with competitors' products.

Earlier this summer, EMC unveiled plans to build a storage router that will provide speedy virtualization.

But Data Mobility Group analyst John Webster said HDS will redefine "high end" with TagmaStore, "so high that EMC has indicated it may not go there." Webster declined to discuss other details of the products.

Research Gauges Lightning's Strike

Research firm Merrill Lynch discussed the impact the news is likely to have on the competition.

"We believe EMC lost so much market share in the high-end storage market between 2000 and 2003 largely because of Hitachi," said Merrill analyst Shebly Seyrafi in a research note.

HDS launched the first iteration of Lighting in 2000 and chased it with the Lightning 2 (V-class) array in May 2002, he said. EMC lost material market share after both products appeared.

From first quarter 2000 to second quarter 2002, EMC's Symmetrix share dipped from 74 percent to 51 percent after the Lighting 1 release, while HDS' share increased from 9 percent to 31 percent.

After the Lighting 2 release in 2002, EMC's Symmetrix share leveled off at 40 percent, with HDS and IBM's Shark coming in at 33 and 27 percent, respectively.

But ultimately, Seyrafi said EMC's recent Symmetrix refresh from February will likely stave off significant market share loss. Symmetrix DMX-2 offers twice the performance of the inaugural DMX product, as well as more memory.

"While we do not believe that Hitachi's upcoming announcement will have an impact of the same magnitude, we believe that EMC will lose some share," Seyrafi said.

Refreshing major product lines is important for vendors looking to catch up to, or leapfrog, the competition. HDS last refreshed its Lightning line in 2003, doubling its capacity, improving its connectivity and enhancing its throughput options.

HDS is also widely recognized as the only vendor whose management software scales between the company's modular mid-range Thunder line and Lightning, through the HiCommand Storage Area Management Suite.


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