HDS Thin Provisioning Seen as Large Enterprise Boost

Adding external arrays to HDS's thin provisioning may help big shops with problem SANs

November 7, 2007

4 Min Read
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HDS has extended existing thin provisioning on its Universal Storage Platform V (USP V) series to encompass attached external arrays from other vendors.

Just who will really use this, and why?

At least one analyst says there's a solid market out there. "There are many candidates. They're definitely larger organizations, with 500 Gbytes or more, or even 1 Pbyte or more of storage," says David Vellante, co-founder and senior storage analyst for analyst forum Wikibon. "Companies that, through mergers or acquisitions, suffer from 'SAN creep,' where you've got storage applications from different vendors fenced off in different tiers... could see 30 percent to 40 percent improvement in storage utilization."

Previously, HDS customers could virtualize a pool of storage encompassing not only HDS's internal Fibre Channel arrays but those of other vendors as well. Replication, snapshots, and migration functions of the USP V could be applied to the pool.

What HDS is offering now is a software key-activated upgrade to the USP V and smaller, rackmount USP VM that adds thin provisioning to the mix. OEMs HP and Sun will resell the feature on their USP V-based systems, HDS says.HDS has also opened up the USP V to 750-Gbyte SATA II drives, even though SAS drives remain planned for future delivery at an unspecified date. HDS says the USP V series will support SATA II in December.

According to Wikibon's Vellante, the combination of virtualization and thin provisioning to external units gives USP V customers the means to cope with a key storage problem: data migration. The catch is that a storage installation needs to be big enough to make the savings count.

By Vellante's calculations, customers he's spoken with spend 50 cents on data migration for every dollar spent in hardware and software. And most big organizations, he insists, can spend $40,000 or $50,000 in consultant time on a given migration project. That's because the need to design the network, organize planned downtime, and create appropriate security and access parameters can take months.

The thing is: Virtualizing storage can halve migration costs. And then applying thin provisioning can improve storage utilization by 30 percent to 40 percent if done properly, Vellante says. The savings that accrue by avoiding or putting off investment in new storage can be significant.

Some organizations may even find savings big enough to justify migrating data from EMC Symmetrix or IBM DS8000 arrays to HDS USP V. Furthermore, he says HDS has struck a blow with this announcement that could help it compete against IBM's SAN Volume Controller, which does a similar job of virtualizing external storage. Because the HDS USP V is a controller-based product with its own storage instead of an appliance like the SVC, he says, big enterprises may be more likely to opt for it.That argument will be music to HDS's ears. But customers may face different realities. A USP V is a major investment, starting at $250,000 for a base model, hardware only; and $65,000 for the rackmounted and/or "diskless" USP VM model. It does not support de-duplication yet, though other HDS gear does via an arrangement with Diligent. And it does not yet offer SAS storage support, either. A site would need to be looking at reducing investment in very large storage systems indeed -- ones that may have these missing features -- in order to justify investing hundreds of thousands in a new USP V and associated data migration costs.

At least one other analyst thinks HDS isn't addressing a broad enough audience with its announcement. "It's good to see HDS evolve their vision for the USP V to be a virtualization platform of multivendor storage," says Greg Schulz of the StorageIO Group. "However, are IT organizations tripping over themselves in droves to adopt the solution? Time will tell... HDS needs to figure out where they want to play and where they want to be to get people to pay."

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  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • Hitachi Data Systems (HDS)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • The StorageIO Group

  • Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW)

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