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9/24/2004
02:18 PM
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HDS Engineers A Better System

Virtualization and management capabilities should make it easier for companies such as Pacific Capital to handle storage

Hitachi Data Systems' new storage software, unveiled in early September and making its way to customers in the next few months, is getting good marks from analysts and companies previewing the technology.

TagmaStore simplifies storage management, says Tom Fleissner, storage area network architect at Pacific Capital Bancorp.

TagmaStore simplifies storage management, Fleissner says.
Tom Fleissner, storage area network architect at Pacific Capital Bancorp, has been testing the HDS TagmaStore system and says he's most impressed with three capabilities: virtualization, software management, and policy management. The virtualization capability enables TagmaStore to mimic other storage systems, whether low-end serial storage or competing high-end systems from EMC Corp. and IBM, to fool them into thinking TagmaStore is one of their own. That means Fleissner will be able to manage all of Pacific Capital's storage systems from a single interface on TagmaStore. "I could have any storage I want underneath and manage it all at once," he says.

The multivendor support is possible because of HDS's new controller-based virtualization, says Claus Mikkelsen, senior director of storage applications at HDS. "We had to virtualize the information so it appears as one big data store," he says.

Virtualization isn't new, but one industry analyst says HDS has added a twist. "The logical partitioning is innovative, allowing customers to create utility environments and get better utilization out of their storage assets," says Tony Asaro, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. Companies typically use only half of the capacity on their storage systems because individual business units demand dedicated storage, Asaro says. "With logical partitioning, administrators could dedicate resources like Fibre Channel ports, cache memory, and capacity so the business units get their dedicated assets but companies don't have to buy a new storage system."

The logical partitioning feature in TagmaStore, which Mikkelsen says is a first for the industry, includes security and privacy that lets companies fence off specific data even though it's all consolidated on a single system.

New software-management capabilities from HDS, such as the Universal Replicator software, will let Fleissner replicate information over long distances using much less bandwidth. The Universal Replicator feature copies only those changes that are new to files, rather than replicating entire files.

There are two important differences to the way Universal Replicator, which will be available during the second quarter of next year, will function, HDS's Mikkelsen says. It uses a semi-hardwired index that can put up with misfires for about an hour before dropping connections, making it easier to use asynchronous communications. "Before, we all doubled available cache, we'd still run out, and the terminal would shut down," he says.

Customers also should be able to run Universal Replicator over average write/read bandwidth, rather than relying on higher bandwidth to handle peak loads necessary for asynchronous replication. "Telecom is still the highest cost for companies," Mikkelsen says.

Also, new policy-management capabilities will let Fleissner see where data is at any time, how it got there, and who accessed it. The crossbar interconnect, which serves as TagmaStore's internal bus, may be the most innovative feature for customers, Enterprise Strategy's Asaro says. "The HDS crossbar interconnect is changing the game for scalable performance supporting lots of concurrent traffic and mixed workloads," he says. "One customer told me that they consolidated 16 storage systems to two and performance actually improved."

HDS's challenge will be getting the word out about TagmaStore. The vendor is known for its engineering expertise but not its marketing finesse. "You have to be a nerd to know what they're doing," Fleissner says. "HDS has great stuff, but they don't know how to sell it."

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