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 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 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 disks 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.

The addition of thin provisioning via Dynamic Provisioning could solve day-to-day problems facing storage administrators. According to 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.

“Most of the power consumption of arrays 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, says 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 Tagma-Store 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.

Speeds and feeds

The USP V is based on the fourth generation of Hitachi’s parallel crossbar switch architecture, which now takes advantage of full 4GBps Fibre Channel connectivity, including the introduction of a 4GBps Fibre Channel switch backplane instead of the traditional approach of using arbitrated loops to access disks.

There have been a number of memory and bandwidth upgrades to the platform’s Universal Star Network V architecture. Universal Star Network V uses a crossbar switch ASIC design and separate, dedicated internal networks for data and metadata, which enables the platform to deliver storage services such as replication, virtualization, logical partitioning, thin provisioning, and striping.

The architecture is now capable of 320 concurrent internal memory operations, and control memory has doubled from 16GB to 32GB, with the number of dedicated control paths increasing by 33% to 256. Dedicated control bandwidth for metadata has increased by 138% to 38GBps.

Overall, total internal bandwidth of the Universal Star Network V has been boosted by 31% to 106GBps.

The USP V also boasts a higher port count for open systems and mainframe environments, with 224 front-end 4Gbps Fibre Channel ports and support for up to 112 4Gbps FICON ports and 112 ESCON ports. In addition, the USP V supports 64,000 open systems volumes, a 300% increase over its TagmaStore predecessor.

Hitachi also upped the ante in terms of single-port performance over past arrays’. The USP V features an increase of 520% for writes to disk and 210% for reads. The performance of Hitachi Universal Replicator software has increased by 130%, while TrueCopy Synchronous performance was boosted by 200%.

Hitachi will continue to support data protection and storage security services such as controller-based data shredding, security for LUN-level access control to world wide names (WWNs), write-once, read-many (WORM) software for tamperproof long-term data retention, Role-Based Access, an audit log file that stores a history of all user access operations, and Fibre Channel Secure Protocol Authorization A (FC-SP Auth A) for the authentication of Fibre Channel entities, as well as support for encryption appliances from vendors such as Decru and NeoScale.

Hewlett-Packard plans to offer its own branded version of the USP V in July as the StorageWorks XP24000, which will replace the current top-of-the-line StorageWorks XP12000.

This article was originally published on June 01, 2007