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Mid-Range Storage Gets High-End Functionality

HDS's Thunder series delivers speed and increased manageability
Can Hitachi data systems make the same strides in the midrange storage market as it has in the high-end storage space? It's planning to try with the introduction this week of a product line designed to bring enterprise functionality and increased manageability to departmental storage systems.

The HDS Freedom Storage Thunder 9500 V Series offers virtualization software to help companies make the most efficient use of all the components on a storage area network, from servers to host bus adapters. Capacity ranges from 360 Gbytes to 32 terabytes.

Support for the Common Information Model within the 9500 V Series' HiCommand Device Manager software means administrators can manage the systems, as well as HDS's enterprise-grade Lightning storage and other vendors' hardware, from one console.

By being more aggressive in the sweet spot of the storage market--systems that are between $30,000 and $50,000--HDS will butt heads again with EMC Corp. In the high-end storage arena, HDS increased its market share among large companies from 16% in 2000 to 25% last year; it had 37% of the market in the third quarter of this year, says A.G. Edwards & Sons financial analyst Shebly Seyrafi. EMC, which had 74% of that market at the vendor's peak in 2000, had 40% the last quarter.

NOEL LEVASSEUR PHOTO

First American Bank decided to stay with EMC after the storage vendor cut its price, executive VP Levasseur says.
HDS made headway in part by signing Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems to resell its Lightning system, Seyrafi says. And thanks to its switched architecture, the Lightning is almost 10 times faster than EMC's Symmetrix for moving data between servers and storage, he says. EMC uses a slower, fixed-bus architecture.

HDS already has had some important wins on the midrange front with its existing Thunder 9200 system. Insurer Aegon NV "took the knife to EMC" at the company's U.S. headquarters in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, says Rob Turnis, manager of server support there. It just swapped out the last EMC Symmetrix 3930 in its data center for the midrange HDS offering. The 9200 outperforms the 3930 system by a factor of three, Turnis says.

First American Bank hasn't given up on EMC yet--two of the vendor's midrange CX systems went live in its data center last week, after 16 weeks of testing the products against competitors' offerings. It decided to stay with EMC after the vendor cut its price, executive VP Noel Levasseur says. He's getting 10 times the capacity--2.7 terabytes per device--for much less than he would have paid just over a year ago, he says.

David Lauderdale, senior VP of worldwide technical operations at airline reservations system company Worldspan L.P., says EMC's and HDS's high-end products are outstanding, but EMC can better support Worldspan's 30-year-old Transaction Processing Facility. He hopes the next version of Symmetrix--due next year and expected to include more powerful processors, more memory, and more input/output--will provide a performance boost. Says Lauderdale, "I can't wait."