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HP resizes its ExDS9100 scale-out NAS system; finds market broader than original Web 2.0 target

Beth Pariseau

Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co. is bringing out a smaller version of its HP StorageWorks 9100 Extreme Data Storage (ExDS9100) scale-out network-attached storage (NAS) system after finding the market for the system

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has been broader than the original target of Web 2.0 data centers.

Today, HP is launching a new configuration that includes a single 82 TB storage block, a BladeSystem c7000 chassis and two active-active storage controllers. The original ExDS9100 entry configuration that came out last year began at three 82 TB blocks for 256 total TB.

When HP first brought out the ExDS9100 system, it targeted Internet-scale applications in Web 2.0 data centers. But Michael Callahan, chief technologist at HP StorageWorks enterprise NAS, said there was more demand for smaller configurations.

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"There were more opportunities than we expected for people who expect to see growth over time, but the initial size may be smaller than the hundreds of terabytes we were originally targeting," he said.

Hewlett-Packard storage customer DreamWorks Animation SKG has installed an ExDS9100 for an online reference library for artists working on sequels of animated films. Previously, the computer animation company had to restore old footage from tape. While the ExDS9100 features HP PolyServe's scale-out cluster file system, which is normally associated with high I/O, Derek Chan, head of digital operations at DreamWorks Animation, said the 7,200 rpm 1 TB SAS disks in the storage blocks are better suited for nearline bulk storage.

Chan added that dual-ported serial-attached SCSI (SAS) disks are more reliable and better-performing than the usual serial ATA (SATA) disks used in bulk storage systems. DreamWorks has other scale-out NAS systems in-house from HP, Ibrix Inc. and NetApp, but chose the ExDS9100 for this project because of the balance between performance and cost, Chan said.

However, the ExDS9100 is still missing some features Chan would like to see.

"We want it to interoperate with other tiers in terms of moving data back and forth," he said. "Other tiers offer snapshots and more deduplication and data reduction." Chan would also like to see the addition of "production-level CIFS support," without a Samba connection to NFS. CIFS support is something other scale-out NAS customers in the high-performance computing (HPC) space have asked for.

Long-distance replication is another item Chan would like to see supported. "I'd like to put one of these at my DR [disaster recovery] site," he said.

HP StorageWorks' Callahan pointed out that software from HP partner Ocarina Networks can be ported to the ExDS9100 system for data reduction, and CIFS support "is implemented on a consulting basis." A new version of replication software was recently added to the PolyServe file system. "I'm not announcing future ExDS releases, but it's not an absurd thing to conclude that you might expect the capability to show up [in ExDS] at some point," he said.

ExDS9100 is one of several products developed to target Web 2.0 service providers, but many providers whose main offering is storage said they consider it a competitive differentiation to build their own systems from scratch. Callahan said while ExDS has its own file system, it's used to organize the data on the back end, and service providers can layer custom applications and file systems over the system. "We're not trying to convince anyone they need to make a religious commitment to our approach to cloud computing," he said. "This is cost-effective hardware that's physically dense and a simple way to manage storage at scale."

Terri McClure, an analyst at Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Strategy Group, said the market opportunity for prepackaged scale-out systems in the Web 2.0 space seems limited so far.

"The Web 2.0 opportunity is in a small number of companies, few and far between. And a lot [of them] are building their own, though some are certainly using scale-out solutions," she said. "In the meantime, I think there's a clear opportunity for scale-out file storage in the enterprise … [where] a core value proposition for scale-out is the ability to start fairly small and grow while still maintaining a single system image, so it would make sense for HP to make it easy to start small."

HP said the ExDS9100 system costs approximately $2 per GB.


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