HDS Ushers In 'No-Compromise' Unified Storage

Hitachi Data Systems is jumping into the unified storage race with what it calls the first midmarket offering to consolidate and centrally manage block, file and object data on a single platform. While HDS considers EMC and NetApp its two primary competitors, HP and IBM also offer unified storage solutions.

April 24, 2012

4 Min Read
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Hitachi Data Systems, which narrowly edged out HP as the fourth-largest external controller-based disk storage vendor in the fourth quarter of 2011, is jumping into the unified storage race with what it calls "unified storage without compromise," the first midmarket offering to consolidate and centrally manage block, file and object data on a single platform. While HDS considers EMC and NetApp its two primary competitors in the unified space, the other two members of the gang of five that account for almost 80% of the external controller-based disk market--HP and IBM--also offer something under this label. HDS says it has three unique advantages over EMC's VNX and NetApp's FAS: the ability to consolidate on the same system and manage from the same framework; all of its products are supported; and balanced scalability, up to 3 petabytes.

Hitachi Unified Storage (HUS) stores multiple data types with more flexibility and more balanced scalability than any other midrange solution, says HDS. It consistently and efficiently provisions, tiers, migrates and protects all data, regardless of type, throughout its life cycle. The company is also announcing that its entire hardware product portfolio will be supported by Hitachi Command Suite management software.

HUS supports object data through an object-based file system that adds metadata for each file and enables automated tiering and migration, fast file snapshots and clones, faster replication over WAN, and fast data searches. In addition, Hitachi Content Platform (HCP) can share HUS capacity with file and block applications from the same storage pool, which results in a more space-efficient and cost-effective solution than separate and siloed object store implementations.

Also new is the Hitachi Application Protector, an application-aware, snapshot-based data protection, backup and recovery software suite for Microsoft Exchange, SQL Server and SharePoint environments. Integrated with HUS, it lets administrators protect their data sets using familiar interfaces such as Microsoft Management Console.

The company started shipping its initial run of 150 block-based HUS systems last month, and will be rolling out a file-based model within the next 60 days.

John Webster, an analyst with the Evaluator Group, says from a management perspective, HUS unifies an enhanced version of the company's AMS arrays with its newly acquired BlueArc high-performance NAS technology under a common management umbrella, the Hitachi CommandSuite. "HUS is an integration of all three, sold as a single, unified storage platform," he says. "As such, HUS simultaneously supports and manages block, commonly implemented as SAN, and file-based storage, commonly implemented as NAS. As a unique competitive differentiator, HUS also supports object-based storage via the file module side of HUS."

The most significant aspect is the software, says Webster. "Storage platforms these days are less about hardware and more about the software-driven services--in this case, a list of data replication options, built-in data protection, and a common management GUI for block, file and object-based storage."

HDS also hinted at product announcements expected later this year, including a unified storage offering for the midsize and large enterprise market. It plans to introduce the Hitachi NAS Platform F series of products to address unstructured data growth in the low tier of the market, as well as a backup appliance based on deduplication technology that enables faster, more reliable and more cost-effective data protection.

In January 2011, EMC combined two of its very successful product lines--CLARiiON, for midrange block-based SAN storage, and Celerra, for file-based midrange NAS storage--into one unified product family called VNX, under the auspices of the new Unified Storage Division (USD). Since then, VNX product revenues have grown more than 20%, and more than 80% of EMC's new midrange system revenue comes from the VNX family.

Last October at its fall storage announcement, IBM added file-based NAS storage to block-based SAN storage in its Storwize V7000 flagship midmarket storage array, Storwize V7000 Unified. In addition to administering the unified storage through a single user interface and common GUI, Storwize V7000 storage pools can be shared between block and file workloads.

NetApp, which had been taking care of IBM's unified storage needs, and will continue to address customers not requiring as much horsepower as the Storwize V7000 Unified, kicked off the unified storage parade toward the end of 2010, centered on its FAS/V6200 high-end storage system and the V3200 midrange system. Even Cisco, the networking giant that plays a much smaller role in enterprise storage, has dabbled in this space, with its unified storage fabric in early 2010.

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