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4/19/2010
12:17 PM
Elias Khnaser
Elias Khnaser
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Hitachi Takes A Swing At Cisco

Hitachi Data Systems Monday unveiled its version of a converged infrastructure. Dubbed Hitachi Unified Compute Platform (UCP), the HDS offering is a direct competitor to Cisco's Unified Computing System (UCS).

Hitachi Data Systems Monday unveiled its version of a converged infrastructure. Dubbed Hitachi Unified Compute Platform (UCP), the HDS offering is a direct competitor to Cisco's Unified Computing System (UCS).HDS also announced an extended partnership with Microsoft to OEM Microsoft's System Center and use it as an architectural framework to manage the UCP from a centralized, tightly integrated console. Some elements are available now, notably blades, but the converged platform as a whole is due beginning of 2011.

The converged infrastructure model treats servers, storage and networking as resource pools that can be rapidly allocated, manually and dynamically, to satisfy a business need. HDS' version is an open platform with a converged infrastructure approach.

The platform will initially launch with HDS blade servers, storage and networking hardware, and support for Microsoft's Hyper-V and VMware's ESX from a hypervisor perspective. It will then extend support to additional hardware manufacturers and software developers through the use of the open APIs that are built into the platform. These open APIs will enable other manufacturers to leverage HDS' platform by writing software that can plug into the Orchestration console, and as a result, replace certain components of the platform. Say you don't like HDS network switches and you want to replace them with a Foundry switch; if Brocade writes APIs into this console, you can do so. That goes for Cisco too, for that matter.

HDS says IT can also swap servers, although it's unclear how that will work exactly, blade technology being proprietary to manufacturers. And, while UCP will leverage Microsoft's System Center, HDS will use its own developers to code into the platform, creating a tightly integrated centralized console that can manage the entire platform across its different layers.

The highlight of the platform will be the "Orchestration" software, which is the unified management console that promises the following: • Workflow coordination • Centralized management • Templates • Service-level management • Billing and chargebacks • Version control • Backup and replication • Ability to manage multiple sites from a single Orchestration console • Easy expandability

A converged infrastructure is ideal for highly virtualized organizations. Say you want to expand your use of virtual desktops. IT could buy a converged infrastructure pre-designed for VDI. Here is your rack, it has been tested for 250 users with this configuration and these applications, and here are your metrics. We also have a version tested for 500 users. Have a SQL cluster project, Exchange and SharePoint? This box was tested with this configuration, and here are your metrics. IT would no longer need to buy the components separately and stitch them together. HDS and other converged infrastructure manufacturers finally understand that it is the usage model that drives the purchase of their products, and not the other way around.

Alliances Will Change The IT Landscape A few months ago I asked in a blog entry on InformationWeek, "Where is Hitachi Data Systems in all these alliances?"

While the HDS/Microsoft announcement is more an expanded partnership rather than the codevelopment of a system a la Cisco/EMC/VMware vBlocks, it is nonetheless a step in the right direction, though I still think Citrix and HDS have a lot to gain from the co-production of a product that is geared toward desktop virtualization.

Traditionally, HDS has followed a passive marketing approach to products, seeming to believe in the Japanese way of "product quality will speak louder than marketing hype." But it now seems to be adopting the American way of "marketing is king," having hired some new blood in the marketing department and promising to rectify some of longstanding issues, like no road map announcements and the fact that we don't know what HDS makes-some think it's just TVs, others think it's just enterprise storage.

The fact of the matter is, HDS produces so much that it's quite possible no one person has a complete inventory. Up until a few months ago, I didn't know HDS even made blades, much less that its blades can be partitioned into several logical blades, a hardware-level virtualization technique that's new on the x86 platform. Each HDS blade can be partitioned into 16 logical blades; say, 8 can be used for hypervisor-based virtualization, with the rest reserved for hardware level support for those applications you still are not comfortable virtualizing. Now, granted, that creates a single point of failure on that particular blade, but even if you have a 2:1 ratio, that is still better than dedicating an entire blade to a single application.

Another useful feature of these blades is the ability to combine multiple blades and present them to the operating system as a single server entity with all their resources. We have to admit, that's pretty cool.

Stay Tuned They say the proof is in the pudding, so we've asked HDS to show us how this platform works. After interviewing some folks at HDS that promised to give a demo of the product and its capabilities, I'll report back and post the video interview and the findings. In the interim, if you have any questions about this platform that you want me to ask HDS, feel free to find me on twitter

Elias Khnaser is the practice manager for virtualization and cloud computing at Artemis Technology, a solutions integrator focused on aligning business and IT.

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