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Hitachi Stakes Claim in the Storage Virtualization Frontier

Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), which has managed to make itself a major player in the high-end storage sector, Monday unveiled a new software framework designed to cut costs for enterprises and save time for storage system administrators.

Unveiled at the Storage Networking World (SNW) Fall 2001 in Orlando, Fla., HiCommand eschews multiple access points for one, integrated interface for controlling HDS' flagship Hitachi Freedom Storage systems. It sports graphical displays that show intuitive groupings of storage resources in the customer installation, tools for controlling the connectivity of physical and logical storage components and key information such as device capacity and usage.

This approach, very much economically kind to businesses seeking to house data, is virtualization and it's the hottest buzzword in the storage industry.

Used often as part of a storage area network (SAN), virtualization is the pooling of storage from multiple network devices that appear to the operating system to be a single storage device that is managed from a central console. As software, virtualization is increasingly important to heavy hitters such as Compaq Computer Corp., EMC Corp., and HDS, all of whom are looking to curry favor with enterprises.

Market research firm IDC recently projected worldwide storage software market revenues to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.4 percent, from $5.47 billion in 2000 to $10.7 billion in 2005.

"Enterprises will continue to demand more sophisticated software tools to assist in efficient management while corporations will strive for 100% application uptime and data availability," said Bill North, research director of IDC's Storage Software service. "These will both continue to be key factors in market growth."

Ron Gervenack, executive vice president and general manager of Storage Solutions for HDS, said Monday's announcement means that the "world's best storage systems" will be better. He also explained why a product like HiCommand is important.

"The exponential growth of data has been driving the cost of managing storage systems to unprecedented levels," Gervenack Typically, companies spend $7 annually for every $1 spent on purchasing the equipment. HiCommand is designed to increase the productivity of storage administrators by as much as 10 to 20 times over currently available tools. This will substantially reduce the total cost of ownership."

Gervenack isn't exaggerating about the demand for managed storage. A recent study by market research firm Gartner Inc. found that 80 percent of external storage will be networked by 2005. Furthermore, few of the large vendors will be able to meet these demands, something which HDS is trying to correct with solutions such as HiCommand.

"Most of our clients report that they can afford to buy storage, but they can't manage it," said Nick Allen, vice president and research director for Gartner. "The main reason for this shortfall is that storage management tools have not yielded sufficient productivity gains to cope with such high growth rates. Gartner's view is that none of the large, established storage management vendors will be able to provide such gains."

Gartner further argued that storage networks must consist of two tiers -- a storage plumbing tier, to provide connectivity between nodes in a network and transports commands and status to at least one storage node, and the software tier, which provides value-added services that operate over the first tier. To qualify as a storage network, the research firm said, a configuration must provide separate value via software that operates across connected nodes.

HiCommand software runs on a Microsoft Windows NT, Windows 2000, or UNIX-based server with network connection (TCP/IP) to all managed storage. In its initial release, HiCommand will support the Hitachi Freedom Storage Lightning 9900 and Freedom Storage Thunder 9200 systems. Support for Lightning is available now and will be available for Thunder in November.

In related news, HDS, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tokyo's hitachi LTD., Monday upped the ante for SAN solutions with a 2-Gigabit per second (Gbps) tool that boosts storage network performance.