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HDS offers HUS VM midrange SAN array with all-flash

Hitachi Data Systems lets customers load up its midrange HUS VM unified storage array with only solid-state drives as an all-flash option.

Hitachi Data Systems today delivered an all-flash option for its midrange Hitachi Unified Storage (HUS) VM platform through the Accelerated Flash modules it launched last November in its enterprise Virtual Storage Platform (VSP) SAN array.

The flash modules allow customers to run an HUS VM system with more than 150 TB of solid-state drives (SSDs), or as a hybrid with a smaller amount of flash alongside hard disk drives. HDS still doesn't have a distinct all-flash platform, but the vendor considers HUS VM the best option for its customers who want to load up a system with all SSDs.

"We're bringing an all-flash option to HUS VM using the technology available in other lines, plus additional optimization," said Bob Madaio, senior director of platform product marketing at HDS.

HDS today also upgraded the Hitachi Network Attached Storage (HNAS) platform used to give HUS VM its file capabilities and its Unified Compute Platform (UCP) for private cloud storage.

HDS developed its Accelerated Flash module rather than acquire a flash company or simply use SSD drives from an OEM supplier. Each Accelerated Flash module fits into a 2U chassis and holds 1.6 TB of multi-level cell flash. Twelve of those modules fit into an enclosure, and eight enclosures can fit into an HUS VM array for 154 TB of flash per system. Madaio said HDS will add 3.2 TB flash modules by the end of the year, bringing the maximum flash capacity for HUS VM to 308 TB. HDS claims an HUS VM fully loaded with flash can deliver 500,000 IOPS with less than one millisecond of latency.

HDS has also upgraded the HUS VM operating system to work better with flash. Tweaks to the OS include the way it caches data and the ability to hand off functions such as data writes and garbage collection to the flash device so the controller does not have to do them.

Madaio said HDS is preparing an HUS VM software upgrade for late 2013 that will increase IOPS to 1 million. He said the software will be available as a nondisruptive upgrade, but HDS will charge customers for it.

Madaio claims the midrange HUS VM is better suited to all-flash implementations than the VSP, which is aimed at large customers who often use mainframes. "There are customers using VSP with all-flash, but we think a larger percentage of HUS VM systems will be all-flash [than VSP] by a much larger margin. All-flash use cases tend to be more targeted. We expect this packaging to fit the all-flash storage customer much better."

Still, he predicts most HUS VM customers who use flash will adopt a hybrid approach, with hard disk drives making up most of the storage along with a few flash trays. "This is fundamentally an optimized hybrid system," Madaio said. "I think most customers will continue to tier."

Most of the all-flash systems available today come from startups such as Violin Memory, Nimbus Data, Pure Storage, Whiptail and Kaminario. However, EMC is due to start shipping its XtremIO all-flash array soon, IBM is selling its FlashSystem and NetApp has an all-flash EF540 for high performance, with a mainstream FlashRay planned for late 2013. Like HDS, Hewlett-Packard and Dell let customers buy their mainstream SAN platforms with all-flash or as hybrids.

"Hitachi's flash strategy was to build it itself, which is its usual strategy," said Ashish Nadkarni, a storage research director for IDC. "Sometimes, HDS is late to the game, but when it gets in the game, its products are well-respected. The biggest threat in all-flash still comes from startups right now. But HDS has a good captive audience -- its installed base."

Hitachi also rolled out a new family of its HNAS file storage. The 4000 series is largely a speeds-and-feeds upgrade over the HNAS 3000, or what Madaio calls "a turn of the generational crank." The two-node HNAS 4060, four-node HNAS 4080 and HNAS 4100 will replace the HNAS 3000 series.

HDS sells HNAS with HUS VM for unified storage. HUS with HNAS 4060 scales to 8 petabytes, and the larger HNAS systems scale to 16 PB. All three HNAS models support 256 TB file system pools, single namespace across the entire system and the primary deduplication that HDS added for its NAS platform early this year.

HDS also added a UCP Select for Oracle Real Application Clusters (RAC) to go with its previously launched UCP for VMware vSphere and UCP for Microsoft Private Cloud, which was launched in December 2012. The UCP systems consist of Hitachi storage and servers, networking from partners, and new HDS-developed orchestration software.

HDS previously had a UCP for a single Oracle database but not for RAC. HDS upgraded the UCP Director used for all of its converged systems, adding a health monitor, performance-tuning manager, bare-metal OS support and nondisruptive firmware upgrades.

The UCP options scale from two to 128 compute blades and are available as pre-configured systems (UCP Pro) or reference architectures (UCP Select).

Most large vendors have converged systems, but IDC's Nadkarni said HDS took a smart approach by making them application-specific. "You need these reference architectures so people can see how to fit everything together, including the application."

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