Hitachi Brings Storage Virtualization to Midmarket

Updated: The TagmaStore Network Storage Controller for storage virtualization helps build the company's profile in the midrange and entry-level space.

Hitachi Data Systems powerful push into the midrange storage market, while necessary for the company to compete on a level playing field with its primary competitors, also is a leap forward technologically.

The Santa Clara, Calif., company on Monday introduced the TagmaStore Network Storage Controller for storage virtualization, as well a series of follow-ons to the Hitachi Thunder 9500 V Series line with new functionality. All new products are geared toward midsized environments.

Taken together, these announcements help fill in the gap for HDS, which traditionally has been strong in the enterprise market but somewhat weaker in the midrange and entry-level space, analysts say.

On the controller side, HDS announced the TagmaStore Network Storage Controller, model NSC55, based on the companys Universal Storage Platform. The NSC55 positions storage virtualization at the array level, an approach eschewed by competitors such as IBM and EMC, which have positioned their storage virtualization technologies at the network.

The advantages of HDS approach—also used by NetApp—is that users get all of the storage functionality associated with RAID array systems, said Stephanie Balaouras, senior analyst for enterprise computing and networking at Boston-based Yankee Group.

"You get replication, snapshotting and long-distance mirroring, giving you the most bang for the buck," she said.

And where the traditional, array-based storage virtualization has a high acquisition cost—the high-end version of TagmaStore is a potentially million-dollar solution—Hitachi is offering the NSC55 as a stand-alone controller, significantly lowering the entry price and making it much more attractive to midsized customers, she said.

Technologically, the NSC55 also is a big advance for Hitachi, said Tony Asaro, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group of Milford, Mass.

"It blows away other midrange storage systems in terms of features and functions," he said. "The EMC Clariion CX700 supports eight Fibre Channel ports, while Hitachis supports 48 ports. That becomes important as the number of servers you have grows. And look at the cache. The Clariion supports 8G of cache, and this supports up to 32G of cache. The amount of storage resources it has makes it stand above anything else in the midrange."

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read about HDS opening up SANs to SMBs.

HDS second announcement focuses on a new line of modular storage systems aimed at the midrange, including the TagmaStore AMS (Adaptable Modular Storage) and WMS (Workgroup Modular Storage) lines.

These products position HDS particularly well against its primary competitors, Asaro said. While Hitachi has done a good job at the enterprise-class level, it hasnt done as well at the midrange level as competitors EMC Corp., IBM and Hewlett-Packard Co., which have greater market share, he said. "Its a good step toward filling out their product line by paying more attention to lower-cost, higher density storage systems," he said.

These two midrange solutions are solid, with state-of-the-art features such as logical cache partitioning, host storage domains and virtual ports—something Hitachis competitors would do well to address, Balaouras said.

"Even these low-end platforms have a lot of partitioning capabilities, so you can partition cache, ports and back-end drives into virtual partitions and dedicate them to specific applications or file systems," she said. "EMC doesnt have functionality like that today, and IBM has it only at the very high end."

Balaouras said she expects HDS to move into IP-based storage next—something the company has started doing with Mondays announcements.

"Hitachi needs to make a huge push, so they are known for being able to deliver IP-based storage," she said.

Asaro said HDS should next focus on two fast-growing markets—content-addressed storage and virtual tape libraries.

"The content-addressed storage market is a huge market—a billion-dollar market this year, we believe—and Hitachi doesnt have a presence in it," he said. "They have to get into it, especially since the early adopters are large enterprises—their largest customer base. They are losing the opportunity to the likes of EMC, NetApp and HP."

Editors Note: This story was updated to correct an analysts comments.

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