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HDS offers NAS blade, cuts ties with NetApp

Jo Maitland, Senior Executive Editor
Hitachi Data Systems Inc., (HDS) a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi Ltd., has announced a NAS blade for its TagmaStore array and, as a result, will fade out its OEM relationship with Network Appliance Inc. (NetApp)

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HDS took its first step into the NAS market in December 2002 via an OEM agreement with NetApp. Dubbed gFiler, the product sat in front of the HDS Lightning and Thunder series to provide NAS services. With the introduction of its own NAS product, HDS will no longer resell the gFiler.

"Working with the industry leader put us in a good position, as we come out with our own products," said Scott Genereux, executive vice president and general manager, worldwide sales, HDS. "Half of our systems engineers are now NAS trained."

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The Linux blade will be a third the price of comparable NAS gateways and filers, HDS said. But analysts pointed out that those users will already have paid hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars for the TagmaStore. "If you have a big budget to start with, you might save some money," said Arun Taneja, founder and analyst of the Taneja Group.

A single NAS blade enables consolidation of multiple NAS filers and NAS workloads, and reduces the cost of procuring and managing dozens of islands of file servers or NAS filer appliances, an HDS spokesperson said. The NAS blade, integrated with the TagmaStore, can use its virtualization feature to move NAS data to any storage system attached to the TagmaStore -- such as EMC Symmetrix and Clariion CX series storage systems, and IBM TotalStorage DS4000 and ESS 2105 models.

But it still lacks important features like file-level replication and global namespace technology, which are becoming standard in enterprise-class NAS systems, and it is only an NFS implementation today. "The product is half-baked. They have to build a complete stack of NAS services in order to seriously compete with EMC and NetApp," said a source familiar with the company's NAS plans, who requested anonymity.

According to Gartner Inc., EMC and NetApp have a combined 92% unit share of the greater than $100K NAS segment, versus 52% for the entire NAS market.

Following the introduction of the NAS blade, Hitachi plans to introduce a series of midrange NAS appliances targeting the Windows and Linux-based small and medium-sized business markets. These will be sold through its channel. The company is aiming to gain up to 5% points of market share in the next 12 months.

Global sales restructuring

To help reach that goal, HDS announced the appointment of a worldwide sales manager to reorganize its global sales operations. Scott Genereux, previously senior vice president of global marketing and channels at HDS, has taken the job.

Prior to the reorganization, HDS was focused on the Fortune 100 and 200 in Asia Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Americas, and each region was responsible for its own profit and loss. "China was only contributing 12-15% of our revenue, but is clearly a huge area of growth and needs more than local funding," said Genereux. "We need to look at where the opportunity is from a global perspective … Germany is a big opportunity, Italy, Russia, Poland, China, India, Brazil … we didn't have enough sales or support in these growth markets."

HDS has roughly 300 direct sales reps today and is increasing this number in these growth regions. It declined to say by how many. It also plans to hire more resources in the field to train its sales staff as the TagmaStore is a complex product to sell. "It's not just a capacity sell anymore, it's about tiering storage and virtualization, and the sales cycle in the U.S. has been a lot longer," Genereux said.

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