Pentagon Deploys Hitachi

Army contractor picks HP-branded Hitachi box, saying it scales better than EMC's Symmetrix

November 1, 2003

4 Min Read
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The storage systems attached to the U.S. Army's SAN at the Pentagon have until recently been predominantly EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) Symmetrix boxes.

Now the IT subcontractor who oversees the SAN is installing a high-end storage system developed by Hitachi Ltd. (NYSE: HIT; Paris: PHA), saying it has the ability to scale to much higher capacities than EMC's gear.

NetCentrics Corp., which manages the server and storage infrastructure for the Army at the Pentagon, recently purchased a Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) xp1024, a rebranded version of Hitachi's Lightning 9980V, that will initially have almost 40 Tbytes of storage.

"We picked it because of the scaleability -- you can go up to 100 terabytes with the Hitachi system," says Bob Dixon, senior architect for engineering services at NetCentrics, which is based in Vienna, Va., near Washington, D.C.

In fact, Hitachi says its top-of-the-line Lightning 9980V is (theoretically) capable of providing up to 147.5 Tbytes in a single system, using 146-Gbyte drives. EMC's just-announced Symmetrix DMX3000, meanwhile, supports a maximum of 84 Tbytes of raw capacity (see EMC Debuts DMX, Part Deux).It's critical for the military to have storage systems that can handle ever-expanding data loads, says Dixon: The U.S. Army alone experienced data growth of 200 percent annually over the last two years.

The SAN that NetCentrics maintains for the Army was originally deployed two years ago as part of a server and storage consolidation project initiated by the Pentagon Renovation Program (PenRen) to modernize the IT infrastructure of the U.S. military. PenRen's overall mission was accelerated after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which destroyed portions of the Pentagon.

Soon after the 9/11 attacks, NetCentrics accepted a joint bid by EMC and McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDTA) for a number of Symmetrix 8830 storage arrays and McData Intrepid 6064 64-port Fibre Channel directors. (Dixon was unable to provide the dollar value of the contract or the exact numbers of switches and storage systems that have been deployed, much of which is part of the military's classified networks.) To date, the Pentagon has put in more than 4,500 ports of McData FC equipment, which supports multiple agencies, including the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the four armed services (see Pentagon Puts in 4,500 McData Ports).

Previously, NetCentrics had operated a few scattered SAN islands for specific applications -- such as email and file serving -- using equipment from a variety of vendors, including Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD), Inrange (now owned by CNT), and McData.

Now, Dixon estimates, the Army's SAN infrastructure at the Pentagon comprises more than 500 ports in a single McData-based fabric. "When we consolidated this whole effort, we were looking for scaleability and huge amounts of storage, so the EMC and McData combination was what was selected," he says. He notes that an important consideration was also long-term vendor viability: "Inrange is obviously not a big player right now... We tried to select the vendors smartly."However, Dixon points out, the EMC/McData equipment was the state of the art two years ago -- and the SAN is a constantly evolving entity that needs to incorporate new elements as the organization's needs change. Thus, NetCentrics chose the Hitachi Lightning system, rather than another EMC Symmetrix, because it wants to accommodate the growing stream of data it expects the Army to generate in the next 12 months.

Other equipment attached to the Army's SAN include Compaq StorageWorks arrays, IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) Shark storage systems, and tape libraries from Advanced Digital Information Corp. (Nasdaq: ADIC) and Quantum Corp. (NYSE: DSS).

Dixon says NetCentrics remains convinced it has made the right decision to go with EMC and McData as strategic partners. Specifically, he mentions McData's recent acquisition of Nishan Systems, an IP storage switch startup (see McData Sweeps Up Nishan, Sanera and McCrafty).

Last month NetCentrics purchased three of the Nishan-developed IPS 3300 switches, which extend Fibre Channel over IP networks. These will be used to replicate the data on the EMC boxes -- using Symmetrix Remote Data Facility (SRDF) -- from the Pentagon to two off-site locations (the whereabouts of which Dixon would not disclose).

"That's one of the requirements we had: a vendor who can implement a new technology," Dixon says.Todd Spangler, US Editor, Byte and Switch

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