HDS Launches Preemptive Strike

On the eve of EMC's Symmetrix 6 debut, Hitachi gives Lightning a booster shot UPDATED 6PM

January 30, 2003

3 Min Read
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Looking to upstage its primary rival, Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) has announced enhancements to its high-end Lightning 9900 V series storage arrays on the eve of EMC Corp.'s (NYSE: EMC) unveiling of the Symmetrix 6 next week.

HDS says new options for the 9900 V will double its capacity -- to a maximum of 128 Tbytes of usable storage -- as well as double its overall connectivity, to 64 Fibre Channel ports (see HDS Charges Up Lightning).

Customers of the Lightning 9980 V have grown to an average of 20 Tbytes in capacity per system, says HDS CTO Hu Yoshida. "As a result, enterprise customers have consolidated high-capacity storage within a relatively small footprint," he says. The new options for the Lightning 9900 V family, which are available now, come less than a year after Hitachi introduced it (see HDS Switches On 'BlackLight').

The timing of HDS's announcement doesn't appear to be arbitrary. It comes less than a week before the Feb. 3 launch of the Symmetrix 6 in New York, perhaps EMC's most significant product rollout of the year. (HDS officials insist, however, that the proximity of its news to the Symm 6 launch is just a coincidence. Riiiiiiiiight.)

In terms of speeds and feeds, the upgraded Lightning may or may not keep HDS in front of EMC. According to some reports, the two-bay Symm 6 may be able to provide a maximum capacity of only 42 Tbytes, although other sources say the system's overall capacity will top out at more than 100 Tbytes (see EMC Sets Symm 6 Debut and EMC Readies Symmetrix Upgrade).Meanwhile, EMC is expected to adopt a switched-loop architecture in the Symm 6, with overall throughput increasing to up to 13 GByte/s, according to a research note issued by Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. Hitachi claims its system's Hi-Star crossbar switch architecture can handle up to 15.9 GByte/s of aggregate bandwidth, although the company notes IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), effectively doubling the system's total raw capacity to 148 Tbytes (see Hitachi Launches Disk Company).

  • Increased connectivity: The system now provides up to 64 2-Gbit/s Fibre Channel connections and 32 Ficon channels. Previously, the Lightning 9900 V provided a maximum of 32 FC ports.

    HDS also tried to make it seem as if it had enhanced the Lightning 9900 V's Virtual Storage Ports (VSPs) feature, which allow up to 128 hosts to access each physical Fibre Channel port -- but this turns out to be untrue.

    In an interview Wednesday, Scott Genereux, HDS's VP of global marketing and business development, said that "with the move to 2-Gbit/s and the 64-port count, we've been really able to make use of [the V-port feature]." However, an HDS source says the 9900 V (the "V" stands for "virtual") still supports the same maximum number of servers it always has -- 4,096 -- because its operating system is currently unable to handle more than that.

    In any event, HDS's aggressive attack on EMC Symmetrix has paid off. Analysts expect that it will overtake EMC in market share at the high end of the enterprise storage market this quarter, with IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) hanging tough in the No. 3 spot (see HDS Gains on EMC).

    But while HDS, the worldwide storage sales and marketing subsidiary of Hitachi Ltd.

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