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HDS moves downmarket with ATA-based array

The 9520 will be sold through the channel only and will compete directly with EMC's Clariion CX300.

Hitachi Data Systems Corp. (HDS) today announced its first product built specifically for the channel that will enable its long-anticipated expansion downmarket.

The new Thunder 9520V, 13 terabyte storage array is priced at $24,000 and is targeted at existing HDS users that want to attach cheaper ATA-based storage to their high-end Hitachi arrays for tiered storage applications; and to smaller companies that have traditionally been left out of the SAN market because of the high cost.

"Our channel partners said they wanted a broader product line from us... We have not had sufficient offerings for the medium and small-sized businesses," said Jeff Hill, director of infrastructure product marketing at HDS. "We've taken the 9500V series and scaled down the feature functionality to reach a price point that's attractive to this market," he added.

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The 9520 delivers 4.2 gigabytes per second of cached bandwidth and support for up to 59 hard drives. By comparison, the 9570 supports up to 224 drives and the 9585 up to 449. Connectivity on the 9520 includes four Fibre Channel (FC) ports, two FC arbitrated loops and support for 128 virtual ports on each regular port. "It's a slightly different scale to our other products, but it runs all the same software," Hill said.

Stripping the willow

Analysts point out that HDS has been careful not to just strip out the functionality of its higher end products but to add features appropriate to small and medium businesses. "You can go too far on the strip down, and if that's all you are doing, that's a disservice to the customer," said Rick Villars, senior analyst with IDC. "HDS has been careful to avoid that by preloading disk diagnostics that automate a lot of complicated tasks; for example, RAID-5 is already set up... It's put under the covers to address any fears and uncertainties." The 9520 also supports Hitachi's Hi-Track 24/7 "call home" technology to help diagnose and resolve issues before they become problems.

These moves, backed by a significant investment by Hitachi Ltd. in China, should give HDS a fighting chance of competing against its biggest rival EMC Corp., which has been shipping its low-end Clariion and AX100 products for several quarters.

The 9520 is the first-ever channel-only storage product from the company, and so far, it has signed up Lenovo and Acer in Asia ,and Gateway in the Americas; Maxdata in Europe, and Bell Microproducts in North America. "They need to focus on channel development to expand their reach in the U.S.," Villars said.

To make things a little simpler for first-time SAN users, HDS has prequalified the 9520 with a Brocade 3252 eight-port switch, a McData Corp. Sphereon 4500 eight-port switch and an Emulex LP101 host bus adaptor. Mark Teter, CTO of Advanced Systems Group, a Denver-based reseller, said a ballpark figure on this bundle is probably around $50,000.

The 9520 supports all the management tools and software options that are available on the Thunder 9500 V series, such as the Hitachi Resource Manager utility package, which is included with the unit, and the optional Hitachi ShadowImage In-System Replication, Copy-on-Write software (formerly QuickShadow) and Cross-System Copy (formerly HiCopy). Hitachi also endorses Microsoft Volume Shadow Copy Service software tool, and the 9520 will support connectivity to Microsoft Windows Storage Server 2003-based NAS gateways to enable file services supported by Hitachi storage.

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