Hitachi revamps high-end arrays

By Kevin Komiega

—Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) has raised the stakes in the enterprise storage game with the launch of a bigger, faster version of its high-end disk array complete with thin provisioning, virtualization services, and a new approach to providing services-oriented storage.

With the new Universal Storage Platform (USP) V, HDS has married a virtualization layer with thin-provisioning software to offer users consolidation, external storage virtualization, and the power and cooling advantages of thin provisioning.

"This is a new dimension of storage virtualization beyond the virtualization of volumes and files. We're virtualizing capacity to address oversubscription and underutilization," says Hu Yoshida, Hitachi's chief technology officer.

The combination of the aforementioned technologies allows for the management of up to—theoretically—;247PB of virtualized capacity, approximately 670% more than the previous-generation Hitachi TagmaStore USP platform. The company also claims a maximum performance of 3.5 million I/Os per second (IOPS), a 5x increase over its previous arrays.

The USP V is priced from $250,000.

The key to the USP V's scalability is an expanded version of Hitachi's Universal Volume Manager software, which provides heterogeneous storage virtualization by applying the functionality found in the platform's controller engines to externally attached storage devices.

The USP V also has several additional management tools aimed at improving utilization. For example, Dynamic Provisioning software enables users to allocate virtual disk storage based on their anticipated future requirements without needing to dedicate physical disk storage up-front. If the need for additional physical disk arises, capacity purchases can be deferred to a later date and implemented transparently.

Customers can also use the Dynamic Provisioning software in combination with Hitachi's Virtual Partition Manager software, which links disk, cache, and ports for the creation of Virtual Storage Machines, each with its own Virtual Serial Number for asset tracking and chargeback purposes.

Hitachi also announced new software for the creation of Large Logical Storage Pools, enabling hundreds of disk drives to operate on a single I/O request simultaneously.

The addition of thin provisioning via Dynamic Provisioning could solve a lot of day-to-day problems facing storage administrators. According to research from the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), underutilized storage is a major issue facing nearly every storage administrator. "Allocated, but unused, storage leads to a lot of waste. We've found that end users are not using 30% to 50% of their capacity," says ESG senior analyst Tony Asaro. "This leads to buying more storage even though they have plenty of unused storage. It can even lead to users buying another storage system."

Asaro claims end users are also buying more capacity up-front to get all of their applications online, which leads to a high initial investment and ultimately more wasted storage capacity.

"IT administrators spend a great deal of time provisioning storage. Thin provisioning solves these problems," says Asaro.

Thin provisioning can also cut down on energy costs by reducing overall capacity and associated power and cooling requirements. "As a consolidated storage operational platform, the USP V can give you so-called 'green' storage with features such as thin provisioning and de-duplication," says John Webster, principal IT analyst at the Illuminata research and consulting firm.

"If you look inside an array, most of the power consumption comes from the drives. If you double the utilization rate and lower the number of drives required, users can save tens of thousands of dollars per year in energy costs alone," claims Claus Mikkelsen, a chief scientist at Hitachi.

The USP V and its accompanying software serve as the foundation for Hitachi's newly announced Services Oriented Storage Solutions strategy, which applies service-oriented architecture (SOA) concepts to storage to create sets of automated functions that can be delivered as a service. The ultimate goal, according to Hitachi's Yoshida, is to directly tie storage resources and functionality to business demands and ensure business units avoid paying for unused services.

Webster believes Hitachi is making a new statement in the high-end market with the USP V. "The original TagmaStore USP established the concept that the controller is the best place to put virtualization. Now they're making a consolidation statement on a grand scale. That's what the USP V is about," says Webster. "The other statement Hitachi is making is that customers should use the USP V as a type of storage control center to consolidate advanced services that can be offered up to the application environment and the operations side of the business. Hence, the message around services-oriented storage."

Hewlett-Packard plans to offer its own branded version of the USP V this summer as the StorageWorks XP24000, which will be the fifth generation of HP's XP line. The XP24000 will replace the current top-of-the-line model, the StorageWorks XP12000. The XP24000 is expected to be available in July.

This article was originally published on May 16, 2007