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HDS midrange SAN array subs SAS drives for Fibre Channel

At Storage Networking World, Hitachi Data Systems becomes the first major storage vendor to offer SAS drives in a midrange storage system.

Grapevine, TX -- Hitachi Data Systems became the first major storage vendor to ship a midrange array without Fibre Channel drives today when it rolled out an upgrade to its Adaptable Modular Storage (AMS) storage system with SAS drives.

The AMS 2000 storage system with SAS drives, which also has an active-active controller architecture, performs dynamic load balancing to monitor and automatically load balance itself. Hitachi pledges support for the dynamic provisioning it offers for its enterprise USP V and higher midrange USP VM storage systems. The AMS 2000 also performs the same disk spindown as Hitachi's SAN systems.

The AMS 2000 replaces the AMS 1000 as Hitachi's lower-end midrange platform. The AMS 2000 series currently consists of three models: the 2100 (120 drives), the 2300 (240 drives) and the 2500 (480 drives).

While the EMC Clariion CX4, HP EVA, IBM DS 5000 and NetApp FAS 3000 midrange systems have Fibre Channel and SATA drives, the AMS uses SAS as its performance drive with SATA as the capacity choice.

Storage industry observers say it's only a matter of time until SAS replaces Fibre Channel in enterprise storage systems. Drive vendors say they won't make FC drives with 8 Gbps interfaces, and 6 Gbps SAS components are starting to show up. But HDS is gambling that midrange users will pick lower-cost 3 Gbps SAS over 4 Gbps FC now. SAS has shown up in direct attached storage and low-end SAN systems from smaller vendors, but not as a midrange system from the top storage vendors until HDS came out with its AMS 2000.

"Up to now we've seen high-performance SAS in entry-level and low-end systems, but we haven't seem them in midrange," said analyst Greg Schulz of the StorageIO Group. "I think it's the precursor for it showing up in high-end systems in the near future."

Still, Malcolm Brickwood, HDS senior manager of product marketing, said that HDS isn't ready to commit to SAS for its USP V systems. "We have [high-end] customers committed to Fibre Channel."

According to Mark Peters, an analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group, the move to SAS is not an absolute surprise. "But it is a pleasant surprise to see a big player be bold and not wait -- as happens so often-- to be pulled down the path of logic by the smaller vendors and market desire. While HDS's USV line has been more successful on the high end than in the midrange, Peters calls the AMS "an important part of the jigsaw puzzle that is Hitachi's focus on the overall storage architecture."

Pricing begins at around $20,000 for an AMS 2100 with 6 TB.


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