HP, Sun Upgrade Hitachi

Hitachi's new midrange SAN controller is being resold by HP and Sun as high-end

July 12, 2005

2 Min Read
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When it comes to high-end SANs, one vendor's midrange is another one's entry level. Got that?

The NSC55 controller Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) launched today aimed at the midrange is also being resold by Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) and Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW) as an entry level enterprise system (see Hitachi Plans Midrange Rollout). HP launched the system today as the XP10000 and Sun as the StorEdge 9985 (see HP Offers New XP Disk Array and Sun Adds to SAN Family).

HP and Sun already sell Hitachis higher-end systems, formerly the Lightning and now the TagmaStore (see Hitachi Struts Mr. Universal). This would mark the first time HP and Sun are reselling Hitachi’s midrange systems -- except they’re not positioning them as midrange systems. The XP is HP’s enterprise family, as is Sun’s StorEdge9000 product line.

“They [Hitachi] chose to position it in the midrange but it’s in same group that makes TagmaStore,” says James Wilson, HP’s XP product manager. “They consider it the high end of the midrange, we consider it the low end of the high end. We’re just on the other side of the same fence.”

The difference is obviously more of a marketing distinction than a technical one. Hitachi’s partners have their own midrange families to protect. HP in May launched a new EVA line of midrange systems (see HP Plans EVA Facelift). Sun’s flagship storage product is its high-end midrange StorEdge 6920, and Sun carries a lower-end family of systems through an OEM deal with Engenio Information Technologies Inc. (see Sun Expands Storage and Engenio's Sun Rises).If HP and Sun sold the NSC55 as a midrange system, they would compete against their own systems.

The line between midrange and enterprise is often blurred these days as vendors add functionality to the midrange previously available only in higher-end systems (see SAN Sales Thick in the Middle). In this case, the NSC55 is a smaller controller with the same storage virtualization features as the original Tagmastore.

“There’s about 250 different angles from which you could look at this question,” IDC analyst Natalya Yezhkova says when asked what functionality distinguishes a high-end midrange and low-end enterprise system. “Those definitions are become more and more fuzzy as vendors move more functionality to the midrange.”

IDC uses price to classify systems. These new systems vary by vendors and capacity, but generally sell in the $150,000 to $300,000 range. That puts it in the lowest band of IDC's high-end segment.

But that’s list price. Analysts say Hitachi often sells its systems at steep discounts. So, its system will likely end up in the high end of the midrange more often than not.“Hitachi’s list price usually has a premium, but they’re always willing to give the biggest discounts,” says one analyst who asked to remain anonymous.

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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