Hitachi Rolls More Thunder

This time it includes software but leaves out Serial ATA - UPDATED 5/5 3PM

May 5, 2004

4 Min Read
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Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) jumped into the high end of the midrange storage system market today with an upgrade to its modular Thunder series (see Hitachi Boasts New Thunder). And unlike past Thunder rollouts, Hitachi included upgraded software this time but failed to follow one profitable trend by leaving out SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) drive support.

The new Hitachi Thunder 9585V scales to 64 TBytes and becomes the high end of the Thunder range, which is smaller than the vendor's high-end Lightning products. Hitachi slots the new system above the 9580V announced last fall that had been at the top of the Thunder line (see LuXcommunications Picks Comverse).

Hitachi positions the system as a direct competitor to the Clariion CX700 from EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) and the FastT 900 from IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM).

Indeed, the new Thunder comes three months after EMC upgraded the Clariion as part of an entire hardware refresh, and months ahead of IBMs anticipated storage system rollout (see EMC Hits Hardware Refresh and EMC Earnings Up).

With the new Thunder 9585V, Hitachi has improved sequential read/write performance by tightening the microcode and adding cache to boost response times for transaction processing, database applications, rich media content, and disk-to-disk backup. And Hitachi has fully integrated storage resource management software from AppIQ Corp. (see AppIQ Tackles Provisioning and HDS Expands Software, Services).“This levels the playing field among high-end midrange storage systems,” says Evaluator Group

senior analyst Greg Schulz, who thinks the Thunder 9585V’s improved disk-to-disk backup capabilities and superior sequential read/write performance are the key new features. “It’s important because Unix and open environments are not as cache-friendly as mainframes.”

While it has done well in the mainframe space with its high-end Lightning systems, Hitachi’s Thunder has struggled against EMC and IBM. At least one consultant, who asked not to be named, says he's spoken with several customers who report that Thunder systems can be tough to add capacity to because the physical hardware has to be added in a particular sequence.

Hitachi's apparently taken aim at this kind of complaint through the use of virtual ports. A clarification: HDS's use of virtual ports isn't brand new, but it appears customers are taking fresh interest in the feature and the vendor is starting to find more ways to promote it. Like the Thunder 9580V, the Thunder 9585V allows customers to connect multiple servers to a common port. Each appears to the network as a unique port rather than a shared. Hitachi says the system allows up to 1,024 virtual ports and that the domains associated with these virtual ports make all of the system's parts redundant and hot-swappable.

By adding new applications via AppIQ, Hitachi also has addressed another criticism -- namely, that it lacked a software strategy (see HDS's Hard-Wired Vision). Hitachi’s HiCommand Storage Services Manager now includes path provisioning, tuning, monitoring, and support for Sybase.

But Hitachi's choice not to include SATA drives in its new system could be a blunder, considering that other vendors say sales of the cheaper disk for secondary storage are taking off (see In Search of the Missing Uptick). Further, omitting SATA takes away from the advantages Hitachi offers with its new faster backup to disk, since SATA drives are considered ideal for secondary storage.“What I’d like to see is a SATA or FATA [Fibre Attached Technology Adapted] type drive technology,” Schulz says. “I would hope and expect they will do that soon.”

Last month, Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) became the first storage system vendor to offer FATA drives on its EVA midrange systems. FATA is a hybrid disk technology that combines Fibre Channel connection to SATA drives. No other system vendors have announced plans to follow HP’s FATA lead, but EMC and IBM offer SATA drives.

Pricing for the Thunder 9585V ranges from $100,000 with 1 TByte of capacity to $300,000 for a 10-TByte version.

Because of its stated policy to refuse all media requests from Byte and Switch and its affiliated sites, we were unable to obtain comment from Hitachi Data Systems for this article.

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch0

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