NEC Combines Backup, Archiving in De-Duping Grid

NEC's Hydrastor combines some key 'must haves' for enterprise customers, but it's not alone

September 19, 2007

4 Min Read
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The first product family based on NEC Corp. of America's Hydrastor architecture announced in March 2007 addresses some key enterprise storage pain points. And it follows announcements and scuttlebutt from several competitors claiming a similar path.

NEC's Hydrastor HS8 is a disk-based storage system that combines backup and archiving, features a modular architecture, and packs de-duplication and data compression.

The system consists of separate "accelerator" nodes that handle connectivity (up to 2-Gbit/s Ethernet) and NFS and CIFS file protocol support and "storage" nodes added separately for capacity, via 500- or 750-Gbyte SATA drives. Nodes can be set up in distributed fashion geographically, hence the claim for grid capability.

Total raw capacity per storage node ranges from 2.5 Tbytes to 3.75 Tbytes. With integral compression and de-duplication, NEC claims "effective capacities" of 37.5 Tbytes or 56.25 Tbytes. Both kinds of nodes contain dual Xeon processors and sport 6-Gbytes cache.

The HS8 will be available on a limited basis on September 28, with general availability on October 26. Prices start at $165,000 for an entry-level system that supports two accelerator nodes and four storage nodes, contains 150 Tbytes of "effective" storage, and offers 200-Mbyte/s throughput, according to NEC.NEC says HS8's been in beta tests since November 2006. Customers include financial clearing house Distributed Storage Technologies, Depository Trust; TLC, a large engineering firm in the Southeast U.S.; Bancorp Bank of Wilmington, Del., which sets up online banking for groups nationwide; Baptist Memorial Hospitals; and a range of non-profit firms, including Anderson Center for Autism.

NEC is pushing the concept of a single platform for archiving and backup. Traditionally, CAS and archiving systems have required different approaches and often performed differently.

But the concept of backup-plus-archiving can't be credited to NEC. Last week, Data Domain announced a revamp of its operating system that extends the vendor's arrays and de-duplication appliances into archiving as well as backup applications. The vendor has certified the new OS to work with CommVault and Symantec archiving software and offers scripting for data stores that fit into what the vendor calls "nearline" functions.

Meanwhile, Spectra Logic introduced its nTier solution in April 2007, which combines SATA disk and tape under a single software architecture.

CAS vendors are also contemplating combined platforms. Reports persist that EMC, for instance, will update or replace Centera with a platform capable of performing both backup and archiving. No timeframe for delivery of that platform has been released.EMC also intends to launch a console for managing a broad range of archiving and backup products within 12 to 24 months. Dubbed the Recovery Management Console, this will be the first iteration of EMC's Intelligent Information Management Console. It will support backup, replication, and de-duplication products, though which ones aren't specified.

HDS in May revamped its HCAP platform for greater scaleability, in an architectural move similar to the one claimed by NEC.

Industry reaction to Hydrastor is largely positive. At least one analyst says support of backup and archiving makes this announcement notable. "NEC has done their homework. They've done a good job," says analyst Laura Dubois of IDC. In her view, the Hydrastor architecture offers performance, scaleability, and resilience improvements over some products available today, which specialize either in CAS or backup, but not both.

Another analyst, who asked not to be named, thinks Hydrastor's ability to linearly scale capacity and performance independently, plus the de-duplication rates claimed, could threaten vendors like Data Domain, Isilon, and Network Appliance.

Another source says all claims for performance from vendors, including NEC's for Hydrastor, must be questioned. "In what configuration? How many servers/processor nodes? How many jobs submitting data? Is that theoretical or actually measured? What type of files? So many questions," asserts Greg Schulz of the StorageIO Group.In any case, HS8 and the whole Hydrastor line have made the scene. Where they go from here will be interesting to follow.Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Byte and Switch's editors directly, send us a message.

  • CommVault Systems Inc.

  • Data Domain Inc. (Nasdaq: DDUP)

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • IDC

  • Isilon Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ISLN)

  • NEC Corp. (Nasdaq: NIPNY; Tokyo: 6701)

  • Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP)

  • Spectra Logic Corp.

  • The StorageIO Group

  • Symantec Corp.

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