Network Storage: Moving Beyond ‘Virtual’ Limits



Year 2006 will soon be behind us, and a challenging new year
approaches. Bellwethers indicate a fast growth in storage with faster growth in
areas involved with data protection. Vendors have been trying to battle it out
to gain total supremacy for years. IT managers realized long ago that its RoI on
storage technolgies is important, but vendors have not. But, still vendors keep
on inventing the storage wheel. Recently, Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) with its
innovation in storage virtualization connected itself with IT managers at CIO
Summit.

On the Virtualization Path
Hu Yoshida, CTO, HDS, admitted that storage is oversubscribed and underutilized.
"More budget is spent on maintaining the old because it becomes too
disruptive to migrate. Also, multivendor storage keeps price competitive but
adds to management costs. Cost has become crucial and should be spent in
technologies that can give RoI," he added.

Undoubtedly, its cheaper to buy storage today rather than hire
people to manage it. Today, CIOs don’t want to give up what they already have.
They want additional capabilties to be added to the existing technologies, which
is much cheaper than migrating to a completely new concept, which they are not
sure on ROI. Storage virtualisation is one such concept.

It isn’t a new concept, but it’s getting a lot of attention
lately as the top storage vendors launch next-generation virtualization wares.
The vendors vary on their approaches; some put virtualization in the network,
while others put it at the edge or in the array. But, they all attack the same
basic problem-simplifying storage management. Hitachi, with its storage
virtualisation concept has been able to convince IT managers that there is more
to tape and disc storage.

‘We not only sell concept,
but also provide support and services’
                                              
 
-Hu Yoshida, CTO, HDS

What
technology initiatives have you taken so far to face competition?

We continue to focus on our core area, which is intelligent control. We
have already tapped the SMB market with this product and are getting good
response. Apart from this, we continue with our consulting services and
storage virtualization strategy, which is giving our customers, value for
money and we are far ahead from our competitors in this area.

Why HDS is
focusing so much on storage virtualization?

This is one area where every vendor wants to be, but none of them have
gone to customers with their virtualization products. We have already made
inroads to it and our customers are quite happy with it. We not only sell
concept, but also provide support and services, for which we have very
capable partners. Also, we have software solution to support these.
Overall we provide complete solutions and satisfaction to the customers.

What is
your consulting services all about?

Today CIOs don’t want vendors to come and sell their products. They know
very well about the products and its value. What is required is to provide
consultancy in terms of technology integration, RoI and if required smooth
transition to the new technology. They look forward to see how vendors can
help them do it. We provide them with consultancy on technology for
business applications and services.

Today SAN is
gaining grounds while NAS seems to be losing its foothold. How do you
foresee the adoption of these technologies among enterprises?

SAN will be here for sometime. It is a guaranteed delivery platform and
combined with IP, it gives excellent results. And, though NAS as a
solution has been loosing ground given other most cost effective solutions
for the enterprise market, I opine that both NAS-SAN will co-exist. Both,
NAS and SAN are growing at a tremendous rate around the world. If we look
globally, both are neck to neck, and with the recent adoption of iSCSI,
the lines between NAS and SAN are blurring. But, sooner or later
virtualization will become a mainstream.

Where do you
see the next phase of growth coming from in storage segment?

We are seeing acceleration and growth potential in some areas. Storage
consolidation is happening and underutilization of storage is an
opportunity. Secondly, government regulations and compliance will drive
the demand of data protection and accountability of information. Also, new
applications and the growth of email that needs to be organized and
archived boost the demand for new storage capacity. Noticeable increase in
demand for storage service from the SMB market will continue. Verticals
like finance, telco, government and manufacturing are the top industries
for storage revenue. In addition, we predict a greater need for our mid
market solutions and storage software growth.

What is
driving HDS growth today?

Hitachi’s virtualization strategy is rapidly gaining traction. Only
Hitachi offers common software tools and management interfaces across all
products, giving customers the power of a single replication engine across
all assets. Competitor’s portfolio of unrelated acquisitions leads to
islands of insanity for clients. Hitachi has successfully ported
industry-leading high-end functionality to the midrange, bringing
enterprise-class features to the broader midrange and SMB marketplace.
Network Storage Controller is mirroring Universal Storage Platform’s
industry momentum.

Virtualizing storage has differnet methods. These methods are
characterized by whether the virtualization is done on the host, the storage
array or the SAN.

HDS offers controller-based virtualization with its TagmaStore
Universal Storage platform. It puts virtualization in the storage controller,
either as a separate appliance or built into the array. Since controller-based
virtualization is intimately connected to the storage arrays, controller-based
products generally do an excellent job of working with the storage, especially
in the event of errors or write failures.

The major drawback to controller-based virtualization is vendor
lock-in. In fact, in most cases, customers are not just locked into a vendor,
they are locked into a particular product line since storage controllers only
work with one product line. Another disadvantage is that controllers, by nature,
have the narrowest view of the SAN-essentially, they only see the storage
array. But, HDS is riding high and claims to have around dozen installations in
the country.

The Gameplan
Though Hitachi entered the Indian market a bit late-infact much later than
its competitor EMC-the Japanese storage giant is making up for lost time. A
growing reputation on reliability is helping Hitachi win more business. And,
Hitachi has been subjected to less criticism than EMC on interoperability-one
of the SAN industry’s biggest problems.

The risk Hitachi runs is letting its focus on EMC, keeping it
from capitalizing on opportunities to sell its solutions to smaller companies.
Profit margins in the midsize market are slimmer, but revenue growth is
enormous.

But, slowly HDS is changing its gears and has started focusing
on SMB market as well. It is now enabling companies of all sizes to truly
realize the business benefits of Application Optimized Storage solutions, as now
even the smallest companies can enjoy the benefits of virtualization by
optimizing the performance of their most pressing business applications–such as
Microsoft Exchange or Oracle Financials–utilizing the logical partitioning
capabilities of Hitachi’s integrated new fleet of midrange offerings.

The challenge in front of HDS is to deliver world-class
enterprise service to its top-tire customers with limited resources.
Conventional midrange storage leaves much of this market under-served. However,
Hitachi has addressed this issue with the cost-effective network storage
controller, delivering high-end function in a user-friendly form factor.

As organizations look to move beyond tape — currently the
predominant storage medium for long-term retention-utilizing disk storage
technology for backup and recovery operations has become an attractive method of
improving reliability, reducing backup windows, achieving greater data
throughput performance and ensuring rapid recovery. Until now, however, the
migration to current disk-based solutions has been causing disruption and costly
downtime in legacy IT systems. Hitachi Data Systems has virtual tape library
solutions that requires no changes to existing backup policies, practices, or
procedures.

Delivering on its plan to increase market share in SME
worldwide, HDS has entered into a global distribution agreement with Ingram
Micro, the world’s largest technology distributor. Under the agreement.

Bolstering its high-end storage virtualization market
leadership, HDS has shipped more than 4,500 intelligent virtual storage
controllers worldwide, outpacing competitors still attempting to gain a foothold
in this critical market

HDS is already on top as far as enterprise customers are
concerned. HP and Sun Microsystems sell HDS boxes to their enterprise customers
and HDS has no plans to compete with its partners in this space.

HDS is slowly and steadily making progress and has drawn some
major expansion plans to gain foothold in the region. It is also continuously
investing in its labs, which acts as demo centers to its customers.

Though HDS is making right moves, still lot needs to be done to
be the king of storage times.

Rahul Gupta in Phuket
rahulg@cybermedia.co.in

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