HDS Shrinks USP V

Uses new version to refresh thin provisioning and virtualization claims

September 11, 2007

4 Min Read
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Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) has renewed its campaign for heterogeneous storage virtualization via a new, smaller version of its latest Universal Storage Platform (USP) V series. (See HDS Unveils New USP V Series.)

HDS's intriguingly named USP VM is a shrunken-down version of the USP V the company announced in May 2007. It offers 72 Tbytes of internal Fibre Channel storage, compared with 332 Tbytes for the regular high-end version; and it supports up to 96 Pbytes of external storage across multivendor Fibre Channel (4 Gbit/s is supported), iSCSI, NAS or mainframe network environments, the vendor claims, compared with 247 Pbytes for the older model. The USP VM works with other USP series products and will connect with HDS's midrange AMS1000 as well.

The USP VM consumes 220 volts of power and still performs at 1.2 million IOPS (input/output operations per second), HDS says.

The vendor boasts that it's fully equipped the new USP VM with thin provisioning, heterogeneous virtualization, tiered storage, and the ability to handle file and block-level data. When it's generally available it will support VMware ESX Server 3.0 to incorporate virtual servers in a managed pool of storage; and it comes with HDS's Universal Volume Manager and Volume Partition Manager, which carve specific increments of internal or external storage in support of specific groups or applications.

The USP VM can run with Fibre Channel disk attached or as a standalone controller-only virtualizer. In the latter configuration it embodies HDS's preferred approach to storage virtualization -- namely, in the controller. According to HDS, the approach scales better and is more secure than other techniques.The USP VM is in beta testing now and will be generally available in October, HDS says. Pricing starts at $60,000 for a controller-only rackmounted version.

Hewlett-Packard will resell its own version of the USP VM as the HP XP20000, outfitted with a range of HP software solutions. (See HP Expands Offerings.) Sun will resell the product as the newly announced StorageTek 9985V Enterprise Storage System. (See Sun Micro Expands Storage Platform.)

According to HDS chief scientist Claus Mikkelsen, the new USP VM competes primarily with IBM's SAN Volume Controller (SVC) and with other products that pool storage and deploy virtualization and thin provisioning, such as 3PAR's. The HDS press release also mentions competing against EMC's Symmetrix and IBM's DS6800.

"We're aiming for the midmarket," he says. "We tend to develop on the high end and then bring products to the midrange."

Ironically, the products listed as competition are aimed at enterprise customers, and it's likely HDS's will also fall into that category. Still, the trend among large storage suppliers is to create different models across product lines in an effort to hit a wider range of applications and customers."It's no longer the size of the customer that determines storage needs," Mikkelsen says, "it's the kind of business they're in." With the growth of data-hungry Web 2.0 applications, as well as the need for storage migration and failover, it's likelier than ever that even relatively small firms could have big data storage requirements, or require a large-scale platform for virtualizing storage across multiple arrays and servers.

This view is supported by IDC analyst Brad Nisbet in a statement on his latest report on the external disk storage market: "[D]isk storage systems vendors with a diversified portfolio of products and broad bases of customers will be best positioned to overcome the varying patterns in spending."

There may be a couple of downsides. No users are available to testify on the product's features. The USP VM doesn't support internal SATA or SAS drives, and HDS doesn't seem interested in offering a model that does so. Further, it's not clear that all features are presently available. While the USP VM is expected to ship in October, no date has been set, and the certification with VMware ESX, while expected to be out in October too, seems to be taking place on a separate timeline. Also, thin provisioning is offered on internal storage only in the beta version, though HDS promises it will be offered externally in the fall as well.

Clearly, though, users are served by any large vendor's efforts to support multivendor pooling in intelligent arrays. If HDS gets its features and functions together as promised, it could represent an interesting alternative for serious storage customers.

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • Hitachi Data Systems (HDS)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • IDC

  • 3PAR Inc.

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