HDS's Yoshida Mounts MAID Assault

CTO responds to Byte and Switch with aggressive power saving claims

September 27, 2007

4 Min Read
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Hu Yoshida, CTO of HDS, insists that his company has no MAID offerings, despite unveiling its own power saving technology earlier this week.

The exec even chased down reporters who highlighted the resemblance between HDS's offering and MAID, a technology for spinning down disks. "With MAID, everything is idle -- you spin it up when you need to access [the drives]," he says. "Our approach is the opposite -- everything is spinning, and you power it down when you don't need it."

A number of vendors, including Copan, Nexsan, Fujitsu, and NEC, have championed MAID technology as a way for users to reduce their power costs. Copan, for example, says it now has over 100 customers for its technology and is planning to bulk up its database archiving and records management strategies next year.

With users becoming increasingly concerned about data center energy costs, HDS is targeting the somewhat long-winded Power Savings Storage Service (PSSS) at its midrange RAID arrays. "We need to find a nice acronym for it," admits Yoshida, explaining that the offering will be available as part of HDS's Adaptable Modular Storage (AMS) and Workgroup Modular Storage (WMS) systems next month.

"We spin [the disks] down based on RAID array group," says Yoshida, adding that, because the disks are spinning all of the time, PSSS will avoid the storage "performance hit" associated with MAID, where disks are idle for long periods.Unlike MAID vendors, which use low-cost SATA drives, HDS is also extending its power saving technology to Fibre Channel drives. "There are some intermediate volumes where you want high performance [Fibre Channel] drives [available within your array]," says Yoshida, using the example of backups that have to be performed within a certain time window. "It can take a long time to do this with SATA drives, but with a Fibre Channel drive, it's much faster."

MAID nonetheless appears to have the edge on PSSS in terms of actual power savings. Users have already shaved around 75 percent off their energy bills through MAID, thanks to the fact that disks are typically idle. HDS, on the other hand, is touting potential savings of around 20 percent as a result of its reliance on active disks.

At least one analyst thinks PSSS technology is a step in the right direction. "The bottom line is that when you look at power consumption on storage, that culprit is disk drives," says Dave Vellante, co-founder and lead storage analyst of the Wikibon user group, explaining that disks typically account for 60 percent of the power consumed by storage systems. "If you can attack the problem of spinning disk, youre going to address the issue of power."

Some users have voiced unease about spinning disks down, citing worries about spinning the disks back up again, although Vellante urges them to get over this fear. "When storage administrators say 'I don't trust a drive that spins up and down,' I say 'don't you use a laptop?' "

"This is all about taking technologies that have been around for a decade and applying them to the data center."Earlier this year, Yoshida voiced concerns about effective monitoring of MAID disks during idle periods, although the exec says that HDS has resolved this issue with its PSSS. "We check [the disk] when it is idle, and we check it when it spins up as well."

Long-term, PSSS is unlikely to find its way into the vendor's high-end Universal Storage Platform (USP). "I don't think that you would want to do anything like this on USP, because that is primary data that typically shouldn't be idled," says Yoshida.

Although HDS has not yet released its PSSS pricing, Yoshida says the vendor will use a software "key" to enable the service on its AMS and WMS device. Pricing for the key will not depend on storage capacity, and HDS will instead charge a set fee per device, according to the exec.

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  • Copan Systems Inc.

  • Fujitsu Ltd. (Tokyo: 6702; London: FUJ; OTC: FJTSY)

  • Hitachi Data Systems (HDS)

  • NEC Corp. (Nasdaq: NIPNY; Tokyo: 6701)

  • Nexsan Technologies Inc.0

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