Hitachi Aims For Big Splash With High-End Storage Line - InformationWeek

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Hardware & Infrastructure

Hitachi Aims For Big Splash With High-End Storage Line

It's unveiling a follow-on to its Lightning storage-system line that will emphasize software over hardware improvements.

Hitachi Data Systems is scheduled to unveil a follow-on to its Lightning storage-system line on Tuesday. And given that Hitachi is taking over the futuristic Guggenheim Museum in New York for the announcement, it's clear that the company wants to make a big splash.

"You're dealing with an evolution here," Jim Porter, president of market researcher Disk/Trend, said in an interview. "You're not dealing with a revolution." Porter said the new Hitachi high-end systems will emphasize software over hardware improvements.

While Porter said he has no precise details, bits and pieces have leaked out over the summer. And the announcement will take place at the same time as a rosy IDC report on Friday, stating that external-disk-storage-system factory revenue is up 8% year over year. IDC also noted that total disk revenue is up 5%, while storage capacity continues to accelerate--up 41% year over year.

Although the rising tide of revenue gain is lifting all storage boats, the battle among Hitachi, EMC, and IBM is particularly intense at the high end, where systems often sell for $1 million apiece.

Porter said the new Hitachi drives are certain to feature "storage-management software in a variety of forms." That means, he said, the new family will feature virtualization, replication, and universal-storage software.

Users who have been briefed on the new line say there will be several members in the family, dubbed Lightning III internally, but likely to be formally introduced under a totally new name. Fibre Channel connections will be used to replicate data across distances. The name of the new game in storage systems is to also be able to replicate competitors' products, and the new Hitachi line is expected to be able to perform well in this regard, although that feature may come in a later release.

"Hitachi will have to address the big concern of the IT guys," said Porter. "and that's how to make storage work efficiently. And that can only happen through new software." Porter said there is still a great deal of room for improvement in high-end storage, because the organization that is setting standards--the Storage Network Industry Association--is "only about one-half done." He added that the association has done a great deal to set standards, but said there's still room to do much more.

Wall Street analysts have said Hitachi's new line will be strong in virtualization--for example, to be able to use one interface like Fibre Channel to manage different kinds of storage systems, including disk and tape applications.

EMC and IBM also have virtualization and replication software for their high-end storage systems. As for high-end storage revenues, EMC has a 48% market share, as opposed to 29% for Hitachi, and 23% for IBM, according to Wall Street investment banking firm A.G. Edwards.

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