Storage is being made more complex

Updated: Nov 21 2005, 05:30am hrs
Todays IT users are often forced to unnecessarily buy more storage capacity just to obtain the latest features and functionality, since many storage vendors only include the latest functionality with their newest disk arrays. Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), according to Frans van Rijn, the companys CIO and senior vice-president of global logistics and IT services, has changed the playing field with its large-scale, controller-based virtualisation technologies. Competitors continue to focus on building monolithic disk arrays still based on 20th century designs. Our approach, introduced with the TagmaStore Universal Storage Platform last year and now available in the Network Storage Controller for midsized enterprises, separates the commodity media (disks) from the innovation (intelligent control unit) required to provide storage, data and content services. Interestingly, Dell recently overtook HDS to become the fourth largest supplier of storage worldwide. In an interview with FEs Sudhir Chowdhary, Mr Rijn talks about the future of storage management, virtualisation and recent technology developments at HDS. Excerpts:

Users are keen to exploit existing investments before committing to new spending. What is HDS strategy in relation to this

Typically, enterprises are buying too much storage. They are also paying too much, because most of what they are buying is Tier-1 storage. Also, they are not utilising it in the best way for their data centers. There are several reasons they cant utilise it correctly and they end up leaving data there and using a new box for a new application. To address these problems, we have come up with the Hitachi TagmaStore Universal Storage Platform. Essentially, this establishes a new industry category, reaching previously unattainable levels of consolidation and bringing to reality the virtualisation of internal and external heterogeneous storage into one pool. Most importantly, when it comes to cost of ownership, users can continue to use their current investment and at the same time, move forward in the technology roadmap.

What exactly is TagmaStore

This is a platform which provides a comprehensive set of storage and data services including large-scale virtualisation of internal and external heterogeneous storage for application-centric storage area management and simplified and unified data replication. As an integral component of Application Optimised Storage solutions, the Universal Storage Platform is the architectural foundation for matching application requirements to different classes of storage. The platform will enable you to deploy applications within a new framework, fully leverage and add value to current investments, and more closely align IT and business initiatives.

What do you think about outsourced storage

There are many ways to address this segment. We follow a simple strategy we meet our customers, look at their business problems and subsequently, we develop dedicated solutions to address their needs. This could include managed services and managed storage. In our systems today, the capacity and the technology of providing storage on demand is there. We have added logical partitioning, so in one frame, you can provide multiple storage domains, and users sharing the same physical access point and the same array still cant see each others data because it has a hardware-based address space.

What about storage utility model

Its a very challenging environment because it asks for flexibility that many enterprises do not have. Basically, we are providing that software to measure the utilisation of storage. Its possible to charge out the storage cost based on utilisation. Though, we dont see it used quite often.

What have been the recent technology developments at HDS

We introduced the TagmaStore in September last year. Already, it was giving customers better choices as to how we price and configure storage because majority of storage in the enterprise today is in Tier-1 devices, and we think we can turn that ratio around. So, we have taken TagmaStore, along with the capabilities and functionalities that are associated with it, to the mid-range environment. This will enable smaller companies to exploit storage functionalities that big companies could do earlier. This gives them the possibility of doing tier storage and come up with the possibility of sophisticated business continuity solutions, etc.

Is the future all about software or we can expect to see differentiation in hardware as well

What we have seen during the past couple of years is that it will be a combination. We have built functionality into the hardware and enhanced the software. We have also tried to integrate the two to get a solid, reliable solution. There are still innovations going on in hardware. If we have the right software, from the vendors perspective, well be able to mask a lot of that. At the same time, usability can still be helped by software.

Isnt the storage environment getting complex

The storage environment is always being made more complex as we add things to it. First SANs, and now were adding virtualisation to that, and iSCSI. Its a very dynamic, changing environment. But I think well get closer to a heterogenous storage resource management tool as standards develop. I think storage management will determine the growth of the entire storage market. The idea is not to manage storage, we need to manage information. Business decisions will increasingly depend on information and applications, and most of this will be software-related. So, the issue will be more about how to deploy them from a storage point of view.

What are the plans of the company with respect to expansion in India

We have an impressive presence in the enterprise part of the storage market here. Our plans are to grow into the medium and small businesses by offering the same type of solutions we have in the enterprise market. The agenda is to make available the latest technology, scale it down and make it available for smaller customers.

And the strategy to take on competitors like HP and Sun Microsystems

HP and Sun Microsystems have proved to be very valuable partners for us. Recently, HP acquired AppIQ, which was a major partner for us. I dont think the acquisition will have any effect. We see no impact on our future use of that software.