Hitachi mixes SATA, FC drives

Adds compliance features

By Heidi Biggar

Hitachi Data Systems last month began offering an "intermix" drive option for its Thunder 9500 V series disk arrays that allows users to mix Serial ATA (SATA) and Fibre Channel disk drives in a single array. Analysts expect similar announcements from a variety of vendors over the coming months as SATA drives continue to assume an increasingly central role in both backup/recovery and compliance-related applications.

"We're specifically targeting fixed-content applications that require a high level of data protection but have a low duty cycle," says Scott Genereux, vice president of global marketing and business development at Hitachi. Target applications include e-mail archiving, disk-based backup, and digital archiving in industries such as broadcasting and medical.

Additionally, recognizing users' need to secure data for regulatory compliance purposes, Hitachi announced support for its LDEV Guard data-retention utility. This utility provides disk-based write-once, read-many (WORM) capability, ensuring that data written to 9500 series arrays is non-erasable and non-rewritable for user-defined periods of time.

Hitachi claims that its LDEV feature can do much of the same things as EMC's Centera but without the overhead. "Customers like this concept—even those who [have looked at Centera] because it allows them to [comply with regulatory requirements] using existing arrays. They take their current Hitachi disk arrays, partition them, and run the same software they're already using."

EMC's method, in contrast, requires users to purchase a separate ATA-based disk array and run proprietary software that is different from what they use to manage Symmetrix, DMX, or CLARiiON arrays, says Genereux.

"I like the Hitachi approach [LDEV] to retention," says John Webster, president and founder of the Data Mobility Group research firm. "It's built on open standards, it's not a proprietary API, and it's a platform that, I believe, has performance advantages over EMC's Centera."

At the same time, EMC recently announced new Centera software functionality for compliance, including the 2.3 release of its CentraStar software. Highlights of the new software include faster performance, improved manageability, and three new retention-oriented features (audited delete, retention classes, and configurable default retention periods).

EMC also introduced two new data services (a data classification service to help users create a tiered storage infrastructure that is aligned with business requirements and a data migration service to help users move offline information online) as well as new EMC Proven Solutions with Documentum (content archiving and retrieval), Legato (e-mail archiving), and Mobius (content archiving and retrieval).

Hitachi's intermix option allows users to integrate lower-cost SATA drives into existing 9530, 9570, and 9585 arrays alongside higher-cost, higher-performance Fibre Channel drives for "in-a-box" tiered storage. This combination allows users to better match data/business requirements to storage resources for potentially significant cost savings: fixed-content data (i.e., data that doesn't change over time) is stored on SATA drives, while frequently accessed data is stored on Fibre Channel drives.

Users can store up to 107TB of capacity in a single system using racks of SATA drives. The company uses SATA drives from Hitachi Global Storage Technologies, the company's disk drive division.

Support for the SATA drive option and tiered architecture is already included in Hitachi's HiCommand Storage Services Manager (HSSM) software. "If a user has already invested in HSSM, all he/she has to do is activate [the functionality]," says Genereux.

The 9500 series arrays include basic management software, but HSSM is needed for the automated tiered storage capability.

Also, recognizing that ATA technology was originally developed for desktop applications, Hitachi has added three features that it claims improve the drives' overall reliability and performance: read verification after each write, reduced rebuild times, and a controller for each drive.

This article was originally published on July 01, 2004