Pans, Praise Greet New HDS Storage Platform

Hitachi Data Systems’ TagmaStore Universal Storage Platform
was designed to grab market share from high-end competitors EMC and IBM . But rivals aren’t convinced that HDS has the
right approach.

The company unveiled
the system and new technologies to a few hundred journalists and analysts in
New York Tuesday. It wowed attendees with a comprehensive platform that employs
mainframe qualities, such as a full virtualization layer and logical
partitioning.

For example, TagmaStore can house and manage an unprecedented 32 petabytes of internal and external data and separate that data into
32 logical partitions, much like a classic mainframe can separate operating
systems.

Virtualization software allocates physical storage resources, including
ports, cache and disks, into as many as 32 Private Virtual Storage Machines,
and new replication software copies data over any distance without the need
for redundant servers or replication appliances.

By early 2005, TagmaStore will have the ability to manage storage servers
from its competitors IBM and EMC, making it attractive for customers who
have disparate storage infrastructure to corral and handle data.

HDS hopes customers will see the storage platform as their choice to power
their information lifecycle management strategies for managing information
from its inception until its disposal in accordance with government record
retention regulations.

Virtual Array?

Rivals found plenty to pick on with the systems.

“Late to market, Hitachi’s announcement represents one-dimensional thinking
in the area of storage virtualization and is aimed solely at high-end
customers,” said Rich Lechner, vice president of Storage Systems at IBM,
noting that IBM has decades of experience with virtualization capabilities,
beginning with its mainframe line.

An IBM spokesperson simplified this characterization, telling
internetnews.com that TagmaStore was nothing but a virtual array.

EMC went further. Dennis Hoffman, the company’s vice president of marketing,
echoed the notion that the product was a virtualized array and
wondered about its viability at a time when EMC, IBM and others are basing
their products on the network.

“If you take away the virtualization element of it [TagmaStore] is basically
a platform refresh and it’s long overdue,” Hoffman told
internetnews.com.

“We completely agree with the analysts and Hitachi that virtualization is
important because it facilitates the interaction with infrastructure for all
of the applications that sit on top of it,” he said. “Just about every
vendor in the industry is in the process of delivering it. But, with the
exception of Hitachi, every vendor had decided to deliver it in the network.”

Hoffman said he presumed HDS’ strategy for getting virtualization into the
marketplace “in a way that they can control and profit from it has led the
company to turn the array into a virtualization device.”

The executive also said HDS’ approach will force customers to buy an array
to manage other arrays by EMC, IBM, or even HDS’ previous products as a
proprietary product instead of delivering virtualization in the network as a
set of open standards.

Despite such criticisms, several customers embraced TagmaStore, as well as
executives from Sun and HP, both of which are selling their own version of
the system.

Policy Management Key

Tom Fleissner, storage area network architect at Pacific Capital Bancorp in
California, said that TagmaStore is very effective for his company at a time
when he and his team are being “controlled by Sarbanes-Oxley” and require
fast, reliable storage.

“I just found HDS to have better policies and easier reporting mechanisms,
as well as a better return on investment from TagmaStore,” Fleissner told
the audience at the briefing. “It lets you consolidate
separate pieces of data, and I found the policy management was right on key.”

Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Tony Asaro said there is a great deal of traction for
Lightning, the company’s previous high-end storage system and sees
the same holding true for TagmaStore going forward.

But Asaro acknowledged that HDS’ challenge is one of messaging and sales,
not of technology and product.

“TagmaStore is a great solution; it’s very innovative, and customers want
storage virtualization,” Asaro told internetnews.com. “There’s no
selling customers on storage virtualization to simplify their environments
and drive down their costs. They’re all convinced of that. It’s just a
matter of getting the message out that this is the best solution in order to
do that.”

HDS will have its work cut out for it. According to the most recent external
storage systems statistics from Gartner and IDC, HDS remains a distant third
in market share.

Dips and Valleys

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. According to IDC,
EMC led the
market with a 20.7 percent revenue share and IBM garnered 13.5 percent. HDS
posted 8.1 percent share.

But when it comes to the high-end market, where systems generally run
several hundred thousand dollars to more than $1 million, the stats may be a
bit closer.

According to a recent Merrill Lynch report, from first quarter 2000 to
second quarter 2002, EMC’s Symmetrix share dipped from 74 percent to 51
percent after the Lightning 1 release, while HDS’ share increased from 9
percent to 31 percent.

After the Lightning 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.

While IBM’s San Volume Controller and SAN File System servers virtualize
data, and EMC is planning its own groundbreaking Storage Router for 2005,
Asaro said HDS is first to market in bringing virtualization, partitioning
and a host of other software tools together in one offering.

“The logical partitioning, host storage domain, volume migration tool …
when you add them up they begin to allow customers to manage a large-scale
virtual environment, or even a mid-size,” Asaro said.

“It allows customers
not to just throw hardware at the problem. With the software they can
control it on a much more granular level. Now we have to see if customers
come back to us and say ‘we’ve saved a magnitude in costs.’ We’re at a point
where in a year from now we want to see that $30 per gigabyte of total cost
of ownership is now down to $10.”

On a competitive level, the analyst said HDS is now providing functionality
that none of the other vendors are providing in their storage controllers.

What will happen in 2004 and beyond? It’s anyone’s guess, but Asaro agreed
the technology is impressive enough to win over customers looking for
certain high-end functionality.

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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