Hitachi expands software capabilities

By Heidi Biggar

Drawing from its seven-month partnership with AppIQ, a provider of storage area management software, Hitachi Data Systems last month made several enhancements to its software lineup, including the addition of two more jointly developed products.

Specifically, Hitachi announced the availability of HiCommand Storage Area Management (SAM) Suite 3.1, which includes Storage Services Manager 3.1 and Tuning Manager 3.3, as well as a new path provisioning capability and an application module for Sybase. (Tuning Manager was developed by Hitachi, not AppIQ.)

Hitachi is also reselling the following AppIQ products under its own label: HiCommand Chargeback, QoS for Oracle, QoS for Exchange, and QoS for File Servers.

AppIQ also has a licensing and co-development relationship with Sun Microsystems. The two companies are currently delivering a line of co-branded software products based on AppIQ's StorageAuthority platform. The products, which are being integrated into Sun's StorEdge Enterprise Storage Manager (ESM) family, are expected to play a key role in Sun's heterogeneous storage management strategy (via support for the SMI-S management standard) and N1 Grid initiative.

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Similarly, the AppIQ products have opened new doors for Hitachi, which was previously thought of as a vendor of proprietary software only. In fact, Hitachi already claims to have a significant following of customers who are using its storage management software with disk arrays from other vendors.

"We're making an aggressive push into software, [thanks in large part] to HiCommand Storage Services Manager and its support for SMI-S," says Peter Smails, senior director of product marketing at Hitachi.

The Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S) was developed by the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) and provides a "secure and reliable interface that allows storage management systems to identify, classify, monitor, and control physical and logical resources in a SAN [storage area network]," according to SNIA documents.

The premise is that by writing to this standard, users and vendors will benefit from being able to more easily integrate software and hardware platforms into heterogeneous storage networks. On the software front, the standard minimizes the need for API swaps among vendors to achieve interoperability and improves time-to-market.

Hitachi has qualified its new Path Provisioning software with all Hitachi storage systems, as well as arrays from EMC, LSI, and Sun. The software also works with Brocade's switches. HiCommand Tuning Manager 3.3, which provides information about various SAN resources from the application layer down to the storage level, currently supports Hitachi Lightning 9900 V and Thunder 9500 V series arrays, as well as Sun StorEdge systems.

"The use of AppIQ [software] has moved Hitachi away from being proprietary in its software management to being truly heterogeneous," says Randy Kerns, a partner with the Evaluator Group consulting firm.

In terms of specific product details, Storage Services Manager 3.1 has been revamped to make it easier for users to secure enterprise networks. The software includes new path provisioning capabilities as well as support for Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise in SAN environments.

HiCommand Path Provisioning, meanwhile, sits under the QoS modules and automates the provisioning of hosts, SAN switches, and subsystems according to the particular QoS needs of the applications, including Sybase, Exchange, Oracle, and file servers. The software also supports "host storage domains," which the company claims will be an important enabler of large-scale consolidation.

By offering these products, Hitachi claims to have deepened its commitment to not only providing open software but also to providing software that is increasingly application-aware or, in Hitachi's term, "application-optimized." Armed with this type of software, Smails says users can get the same view of an application, tiers of storage, and the path in-between from a single application, which has significant benefits.

Also last month, Hitachi announced the availability of the Thunder 9585 V array, which has a 7.5GBps bandwidth and a 64TB capacity. The company claims that the array is 47% faster and has twice the capacity of competitive arrays, notably the EMC/Dell CX700.

About the competitive landscape, Kerns says that the major disk array vendors all have competitive hardware in terms of function and performance. "In fact, all of the vendors probably have more performance than most customers need."

This article was originally published on June 01, 2004