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HDS streamlines storage management tools

HDS merges separate storage management software applications into one package with a shared back-end database and will support solid-state drives in high-end disk arrays later this year.

Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) is making software and hardware upgrades, combining six storage management applications into one suite to streamline tasks while doubling the cache size of its USP-V high-end disk array. HDS has also revealed that it now supports thin provisioning on replicated volumes and will support solid-state disk drives in the array later this year.

The new Hitachi Storage Command Suite consists of Device Manager, Tuning Manager, Tiered Storage Manager and Dynamic Link Manager, plus new applications called Replication Manager and Storage Capacity Reporter. All of the applications were developed by HDS except for Storage Capacity Reporter, which is a rebranding of Aptare's StorageConsole software. And all six are based on the same back-end database.

Replication Manager gives customers a single view of all local and remote replication tasks scheduled for the array. The product supports open systems and mainframe data volumes. Previously, HDS customers had to use Replication Monitor for reporting on replication and Business Continuity Manager for managing replication jobs.

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Rodney Willms, senior storage engineer for Sutter Health, said the combination of Device Manager and Tuning Manager will reduce the amount of time his company spends training administrators. "I won't have to train people on one software product and then cross over to another product," he said. He also anticipates the new integration will help his team get a more accurate picture of its storage environment, "as opposed to using Tuning Manager, then looking at performance data elsewhere and trying to logically put them together."

Cutting down on common data in multiple places should cut down on human error when managing storage, according to IDC analyst Laura DuBois. But she said, "There are still steps to take" for HDS to completely integrate its software. HDS software applications that remain separate include the Basic Operating System and software from partners, such as Hewlett-Packard's HSSM and backup products licensed from CommVault Systems.

HDS is making progress in simplifying its own software, but true storage management heterogeneity is still a long way off, DuBois added. "It's still early in the heterogeneous storage lifecycle," she said, noting that most of the deployments of storage virtualization she's seen behind the USP disk array have involved storage from HDS or high-end array partner HP. "It's going to take a while to mature."

Hardware updates: Support for new disk drives, thin replication

When EMC said it was going to start supporting flash drives in its Symmetrix DMX arrays in January, HDS chief scientist Claus Mikkelsen said HDS didn't see much of a market for them, but added that if EMC had "created a market, [HDS] will just jump right in."

It's more accurate to say HDS is wading in than jumping in. The drives won't be available through HDS until the third quarter at the earliest. HDS hasn't selected a partner or decided on a drive size it will support, yet. "It could be several partners," said Kevin Sampson, HDS director of product marketing for storage infrastructure.

In the meantime, HDS has swapped out an 8 GB cache card for a 16 GB cache card, doubling its peak cache capacity to 512 GB. The larger cache will allow customers to lock even large files in cache if they're frequently accessed. Eventually, according to Sampson, HDS envisions integration with Tiered Storage Manager that will allow customers to manage cache and flash-based storage as a new "Tier 0" within the array.

IDC analyst Jim Baker said the cache enhancement "is a better solution while they wait for a down curve in pricing for flash drives," which still remain prohibitively expensive for most companies. The consensus as data volumes and performance requirements grow is that the media will fall in price as it increases in popularity, but that's unlikely to happen before 2010, according to most industry experts.

Still, Willms said he's eager to get his hands on the technology, despite its price. "We can use it where appropriate, the same way we do with relatively expensive 73 GB, 15,000 rpm Fibre Channel drives for high-performance applications today," he said, adding that within two to three years he expects solid-state drives and high-speed SAS disks to comprise most of his disk capacity. "If the application needs it, we'll buy it."

Flash drives aren't the only disk media HDS is newly supporting in the USP-V. New support has also been added for 1 TB 7,200 rpm SATA drives, 400 GB 10,000 rpm Fibre Channel drives and IBM mainframe volumes on 750 GB and 1 TB SATA drives. The USP-V will also now support the latest Ethernet protocol standard, IPv6, for remote management.

Another anticipated addition to the USP-V is local and distance replication support for thin provisioned volumes. EMC and other vendors have claimed that HDS was rushing thin provisioning to market without proper support across its product lines. However, HDS maintains that the capability has been shipping and supported for a few months, but it has been waiting for official testing to be completed before formally announcing the capability.

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