Hitachi overhauls virtualization portfolio, adds thin provisioning

Also replaces TagmaStore moniker with corporate name

Hitachi Data Systems Corp. gave its storage virtualization software a whole new look with Monday's introduction of a slew of enhancements designed to boost hardware performance, maximize installed storage capacity and help reduce storage consumption by shaving power, cooling and energy costs.

The company described the new Hitachi Universal Storage Platform (USP) V, which takes advantage of a new 4 Gbit/sec. Fibre Channel switch backplane architecture, as the centerpiece of its storage virtualization overhaul.

The USP offering includes a new virtualization services layer, which directly integrates thin provisioning onto the platform, Hitachi said. USP V, which supports up to 247 petabytes of virtualized storage capacity, is aimed at the high-end enterprise storage market, the company said. Earlier versions of the product were called TagmaStore USP.

USP V includes Hitachi's Dynamic Provisioning software, which the company said enables users to allocate virtual disk storage based on anticipated needs without having to dedicate or put aside physical disk storage upfront. This software should help end users avoid having to turn to third-party vendors to fulfill thin-provisioning needs, said Hu Yoshida, vice president and chief technology officer at Hitachi Data Systems, a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Hitachi Ltd.

The Dynamic Provisioning software will also improve storage utilization to retrieve allocated but unused storage capacity being misappropriated on areas such as snapshots of full volume copies being replicated, Yoshida contended.

"We're seeing five to 10 to 20 copies of the same volume of capacities being replicated. In most cases, storage utilization [within large IT storage environments] is only about 20% to 30%," said Yoshida. "Buying more storage isn't the answer; it's only going to compound the problem. You have to be able to get control of this."

Hitachi also announced a beefed-up version of USP's Hitachi Universal Volume Manager software, which Yoshida said boosts performance by 670% compared with its predecessor. The virtualization tool provides the functionality of Hitachi's virtual storage controllers to any type of externally attached storage device.

USP V also allows end users to create "large logical storage pools," each of which is equipped with dozens or hundreds of disk drives operating on I/O simultaneously. The feature should allow I/O requests on taxed storage systems to be handled much more efficiently and quickly, Yoshida noted.

Microsoft Exchange environments in particular may greatly benefit from the performance enhancements of Hitachi's USP V technology, according to testing research conducted by Enterprise Strategy Group Inc.

Hitachi's USP 4Gbit/sec. switch architecture should prove invaluable to United Air Lines Inc. for managing its massively parallel IBM data warehouse environment and pumping more business intelligence back into the organization, said Gary Pilafas, managing director of the enterprise architecture team at United.  

"With that kind of environment, you really need [sturdy] throughput and response times. Often it's over 100,000 I/Os and within a 7 or so millisecond response time for the performance. When I went to [USP V], I saw a 500% [performance] improvement," said Pilafas, who noted that he's seeing 30% to 40% data growth in his systems every year.

Pilafas said that United has been testing USP V for about three weeks.

"We'll need those types of results in a couple of years because the more data we can feed to the data warehouse, the more results your business gets. When you're unconstrained on an infrastructure level, you can do a lot more," he added.

Currently, United is running about 10 TagmaStore USPs across three data centers -- two in Chicago for business resumption, and another in San Francisco for what he calls the airline's "maintenance base." United's usage of USPs support a variety of critical applications, including backing up servers running the airline's booking and pricing engines, Pilafas said.

Pilafas said he believes that Hitachi is leapfrogging other large storage vendors by paying close attention to augmenting virtualization for companies dependent upon high-end storage arrays, instead of investing research and development dollars into products aimed at small and medium-size businesses.  

Hitachi also introduced its service-oriented storage offerings, adding a services element to complement USP V for either internal or external business-specific needs. The new services canvass a variety of storage areas, including business continuity, content management, storage security, file management, data classification, nondisruptive data migration, data de-duplication, and volume management across heterogeneous systems.

Notably absent from Hitachi USP V is the company's TagmaStore brand name. The company has decided to permanently remove TagmaStore from its USP product set to more closely align its products with its parent company, Yoshida said.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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