HDS Wields SOA to Attack EMC, IBM


With the launch of
its Universal Storage Platform V earlier this week, Hitachi Data Systems
(HDS) unveiled more than just a high-end storage array. The company
articulated a new message for delivering storage services.


That message is service-oriented storage (SOS), storage
services that invoke the service-oriented architecture (SOA)
 model of distributed computing.


This approach is HDS’ way of making storage more cost-effective in
the increasingly on-demand and need-it-now world of Web 2.0. The
strategy is designed to help the company gain market share in the high-end
space, where HDS trails EMC and IBM.

Analysts have been calling for vendors to sew storage and SOA together for some time. HDS decided to listen. By pairing virtualization of data into a
common pool and thin provisioning to allocate resources that hew to business
requirements, HDS hopes to ease customers’ data pains.


“This is going to mark a new era of storage where forcing users to pay for
services that go unused to be replaced by storage services that directly tie
resources and functionality,” HDS CTO Hu Yoshida said on a conference call Monday.


Such an approach is novel for storage. Traditionally, high-end customers
figure out how much data they have, how much they plan to have and then buy
something to meet application requirements in the middle. Customers buy
powerful arrays, such as an EMC Symmetrix, IBM DS8000 or HDS USP IV, and get
locked into the product.


The problem is if an administrator guesses too high about the storage capacity that applications need, storage goes unused. If the admin doesn’t purchase
enough storage, applications run out of space and crash. Both outcomes mean
wasted money.


Yoshida said that HDS’ SOS method, comprised of loosely coupled sets of services
in HDS’ virtualized storage controllers that can be invoked by applications
on the fly, lets businesses pay for what resources are actually used.


Core to the SOS capability are HDS’ virtualization technology and new
Dynamic Provisioning software. HDS obviates the vendor lock-in problem with
virtualization tools that let customers pool up to 247 petabytes
 of external storage from various vendors.


Available as an optional service for USP V, Dynamic “thin” provisioning
software lets admins allocate virtual disk storage based on their
anticipated future needs without dedicating physical disk storage at the
point of sale. If the need for additional capacity arises, it can be
purchased later and implemented without disrupting applications.


Moreover, Dynamic Partitioning can be combined with Hitachi’s Virtual
Partition Manager software, which links disk, cache, and ports to create
virtual storage machines. Each machine boasts its own virtual serial number
to allow for asset tracking and chargeback.


This means customers can use thin provisioning software for internal storage
and virtual storage machines, allowing admins to authorize and trigger
exactly what storage services a business needs.


HDS customers are excited by the plan.


Gary Pilafas, managing director of enterprise architecture for United
Airlines, testified to the perks of the new Dynamic Provisioning and
virtualization combo on the call.


“We expect the new innovations in USP V, like thin provisioning and expanded
virtualization software, to have a rather strong economic impact on our
datacenters by increasing our utilization rates, lowering our power and
cooling costs and lowering our total cost of ownership,” Pilafas said.


Analysts see the value, too.


IDC’s Brad Nisbet said many large organizations are looking to consolidate
and reduce the numbers of management points in their environments.
Virtualization technologies such as the ones included in the USP platform
will be meaningful to these types of customers, he said.


“In addition, the thin provisioning offered on this type of high-end SAN
array is a bold move and will also be meaningful to IT organizations looking
to support multiple internal departments,” Nisbet said.


Ringing endorsements aside, HDS still has to execute and convince new
customers to buy USP V and associated technologies. The next year will be
critical for HDS, whose market share for high-end systems (starting at
$300,000) decreased 1.5 percent to 15.2 percent in 2006 from 2005.


Contrast that with EMC’s massive 39 percent stake in high-end storage and
IBM’s formidable 24.4 percent portion and HDS has work to do.


Goldman Sachs analysts said in a research note that HDS won’t likely realize
returns on USP V and its thin provisioning and virtualization perks until
later this year.


But HDS won’t relegate SOS and USP V to the high-end systems unveiled this
week; Yoshida said midrange and low-end arrays are in the works.

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