Tech Roundup: Disk subsystems

First in a monthly series, this Tech Roundup focuses on disk subsystems. Stay tuned for next month's look at virtualization software.


Storage software is coming on strong, but disk subsystems, which include control software with the capability to organize its disks as disk arrays, have always been the life-blood of the storage industry. According to the Storage Networking Industry Association, the control software found in a subsystem presents the disks' storage capacity to hosts as one or more virtual disks. Control software is often called firmware or microcode when it runs in a disk controller.

Key vendors and products:

Some of the top subsystem vendors and products in the market are EMC Corp.'s Symmetrix DMX, IBM's Shark, Hitachi Data Systems' Freedom Storage Lightning 9980V, Network Appliance Inc.'s NearStore R200 and FAS200 Series, XIOtech Corp.'s Magnitude 3D, Nexsan Technologies Inc.'s ATABeast array, Storage Technology Corp.'s BladeStore and Hewlett Packard Co.'s Enterprise Virtual Array family.

Innovations and trends:

While disk system sales have bottomed out recently and software is fast becoming integral to the bottom line of most storage vendors, John McArthur, group vice president of International Data Corp.'s storage research program, said it's important to note that the disk storage systems hardware market is still three times the size of the storage software market.

So what are subsystem vendors trying to do to sell more machines? According to McArthur, the aim of disk subsystem makers is to invest in areas that will separate their products from the rest of the pack. He expects hardware companies to differentiate their systems by adding more hardware and software features, services and application integration.

"The products that deliver a significant portion of the revenue today may come under further price pressure, as the underlying hardware that they are designed to enhance and support continues to commoditize," McArthur said. "Data replication and migration functions come to mind, as more network- and server-based utilities become available at substantially lower price points."

Big vendors are adding more software features to their subsystems, but they are also branching out to accommodate the storage needs of small businesses by offering sub-$10,000 subsystems as evidenced by EMC's recently launched AX100, HP's low-cost StorageWorks Modular Smart Array (MSA) family and IBM's Enterprise Storage Server (ESS) 750, lovingly referred to as "Baby Shark."

More from the Storage Media Group ( and Storage Magazine) on this topic:

News and advice by product

Storage Magazine poll on Symmetrix
In-depth: Inside the new Symmetrix
News: EMC buoys mainframe Symmetrix offering
News: EMC upgrades Symmetrix DMX
Advice: How to convert Symmetrix to Lightning SAN
Trends: IBM spawns ESS offspring
News: IBM flexes mainframe storage muscles
News: User refuses to be IBM virtualization guinea pig
2003 Storage Product of the Year: FAS 200 Series
2003 Product of the Year: Xiotech Magnitude 3D
News: XIOtech tackles high availability with clustered SAN architecture
2002 Product of the Year: ATABoy 2
News: StorageTek BladeStore failures causing end-user headaches
Advice: How does BladeStore work?
Trends: HP snubs SATA for low-cost Fibre drive

General news and advice on key subsystems vendors

Advice: Incumbents and newcomers in storage disk subsystems
News -- Analyze that: EMC
Column -- The future of storage: IBM's view
News -- HP storage: What went wrong?
Trends: NetApp Opens Up Software
News: XIOtech tackles high availability with clustered SAN architecture News: XIOtech rolls out new storage features for Exchange
2003 Storage Products of the Year: Disk and disk subsystems

Dig Deeper on Primary storage devices

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