NEC ships system for backup, archive

By Kevin Komiega

—End users in search of a way to consolidate backup and archive data onto a single system may be in luck. NEC Corporation of America today announced availability of the first product based on its HYDRAstor grid-based architecture. The HYDRAstor HS8, the initial offering in a series of products, is built to be a target for all secondary storage, including backup and archive data, and packs a punch in terms of performance, scalability, and data-reduction technologies.

The HS8 architecture enables both performance and disk capacity to be scaled independently by adding Accelerator Nodes and Storage Nodes, respectively. Accelerator Nodes scale performance from 200MBps to 14,000MBps with data de-duplication to reduce backup and archive times. Storage Nodes scale in disk capacity from 150TB to one logical 10PB pool of capacity using 500GB or 750GB SATA disks. The nodes run NEC's DynamicStor management software for unified management of all data types stored on the system.

The HS8 features several management tools for data compression, protection, and reduction, including automatic provisioning, snapshot-based continuous data protection (CDP), data de-duplication, migration, and encryption. NEC plans to add replication in early 2008.

General availability is slated for late October. The HS8 will be available in three pre-configured models. The HS8-1010 features two Accelerator Nodes and four Storage Nodes with performance clocking in at 200MBps with 150TB of storage capacity. The HS8-1020 comes with 12 Accelerator Nodes and 24 Storage Nodes for a total capacity of 900TB and throughput of 1200MBps. The HS8-1080 touts 4800MBps throughput with 3.6PB of capacity running 48 Accelerator Nodes and 96 Storage Nodes. Pricing starts at $165,000, and any of the systems can be scaled to any size by adding individual nodes. The HS8 has been tested up to 10PB of total capacity and can theoretically scale beyond 10PB.

The idea behind the HS8 is the elimination of the need for separate virtual tape library (VTL) and content-addressed storage (CAS) systems by consolidating onto one platform.

Karen Dutch, NEC's general manager, advanced storage products, claims current products use a piecemeal approach to secondary storage.

"Our architecture creates a unified grid storage platform to support backup and archive data," says Dutch. "Current point products that address backup and archiving separately, like VTLs and CAS systems, are actually making matters worse."

Dutch points to architecture limitations as the cause of VTL and CAS problems. "Each vendor has different products and architectures, and there are scalability problems because the systems are non-linear and capacity and performance cannot be scaled independently. Users are going to run into problems when they realize that they want one big platform that can support all of these applications," says Dutch. "These systems result in more and more silos of capacity."

Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Heidi Biggar says the concept of a single platform for all types of secondary or persistent data—data that is rarely if ever changed—is nothing new, but NEC's architectural approach to the concept is unique.

"A lot of vendors are talking about going in this direction, but HYDRAstor has the potential to be an easily and highly scalable system. That's a differentiator," says Biggar. "It's among the first platforms that serve as a backup and archiving target, and it's a true clustered environment that provides a more enhanced tier of storage with de-duplication."

Biggar adds that the system's so-called "self-evolving" attributes that allow for the non-disruptive addition or replacement of nodes, processors, and disk drives is a major benefit. HYDRAstor HS8's smart nodes allows for non-disruptive upgrades without application downtime or manual data migration.

Marc Staimer, president of Dragon Slayer Consulting, says NEC's approach to de-duplication separates HYDRAstor from the rest of the field. "The way they do de-duplication is different from a lot of other vendors. It's spread across multiple nodes, which gives you a much more resilient solution," says Staimer.

He says the typical approach to de-duplication is usually based on RAID-5 or RAID-6 protection, which means if you lose data you lose all of the data tied to it as well. HYDRAstor allows the system to protect de-duplicated data in the event of multiple hard drive failures and without a performance penalty.

NEC dubs its approach to data de-dupe "safe de-duplication." HYDRAstor HS8 includes a pair of patent-pending technologies called DataRedux and Distributed Resilient Data (DRD). DataRedux eliminates redundant data across and within incoming data streams, while DRD protects de-duplicated data and can be tuned to various resiliency levels by users. The default setting protects against three disk or node failures, which according to NEC offers 300% more resiliency than RAID 5 with a similar storage capacity overhead and ensures no performance degradation during a rebuild operation.

This article was originally published on September 18, 2007