Hitachi Data Systems, Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard this week are trying to leapfrog EMC for enterprise-class storage leadership using pretty much the same product--HDS's new TagmaStore Universal Storage Platform.
TagmaStore, which until Tuesday had been known as the Lightning 3, is the third generation of HDS's Lightning family of arrays. The Lightning family competes mainly against EMC's DMX storage-system family and IBM's Shark line of enterprise storage products.
TagmaStore now offers the ability to connect external storage devices through the array to create a virtual pool of addressable storage up to 32 petabytes in size. Of that, up to 332 Tbytes can be internal Fibre Channel hard drives. The remaining capacity comes from other arrays attached via TagmaStore.
Sun is reselling TagmaStore through its solution providers as the StorEdge 9990, while HP is selling an OEM version, the StorageWorks XP12000, through its channels.
Solution providers said the TagmaStore's virtualization capabilities means it can attach to and manage multiple classes of storage devices--including arrays that customers already have--as they build a multitiered archival infrastructure for customers.
John Murphy, executive vice president of Advanced Systems Group, a Denver-based solution provider for both HDS and Sun, said customers appreciate it when a partner can combine multiple classes of storage devices while maintaining their investment in legacy equipment.
"This hopefully drives the ability we've been waiting for for 15 years: hierarchical storage management," Murphy said. "The assignment of storage by classes, and who manages that storage, has been the big question."
Murphy said TagmaStore's ability to attach to and manage legacy arrays is itself a big plus since many customers prefer to add performance or manageability without replacing existing gear.
"People still have a lot of storage out there," he said. "This could help them upgrade while cutting back on the number of forklift upgrades, which surprisingly are still very common."
Rich Baldwin, president and CEO of Nth Generation Computing, an HP solution provider based in San Diego, touted TagmaStore's scalability--even though few customers need to manage the full 32-petabyte capacity.
"It's nice to know there's no practical limit," Baldwin said. "Once it's put in, the sky's the limit. It becomes a practical issue with other vendors' products."
With list prices starting at $450,000, there's little business case for buying TagmaStore to manage a terabyte or so. It's when customers have to manage 30 Tbytes to 50 Tbytes that HDS's storage platform comes into its own, Baldwin said.
"Some companies use point solutions for 10 or more Tbytes of data," he said. "But others look at putting it all behind one frame. That's where the cost savings come in."
One such customer is Pacific Capital Bancorp, Santa Barbara, Calif. The bank turned to Irvine, Calif.-based solution provider Consilient Technologies to implement TagmaStore's policy-based architecture and virtualization capabilities.
Tom Fleissner, SAN architect at Pacific Capital, said the publicly traded bank is concerned about government regulations such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
"The policy engine on top of the TagmaStore can [let us] specify how long a file is stored, where to store it and who has access to it," he said. "We can decide what goes on a 15,000-rpm Fibre Channel hard drive or on SATA drives. We have to store checks for seven years."
Pacific Capital has EMC Clariion, Dot Hill and IBM Shark arrays in its data center, which the bank expects to move behind the HDS platform, Fleissner said. He also expects to use Veritas Volume Manager to virtualize the server side, then move that functionality to the Hitachi technology.
Scott Genereux, senior vice president of HDS, said TagmaStore should appeal to the channel for its overall management and performance capabilities, especially when it comes to archiving. Of course, adding that sort of value requires a strong dose of consulting, which is where solution providers come in, Genereux said.
"This is not a box sell," he said. "It's how to sell universal replication and e-mail archiving. It's about meeting customer needs."
With the TagmaStore, HDS plans to start working with a wider range of solution providers, particularly those with EMC experience, Genereux said. However, he said he is looking to complement the EMC storage, not necessarily replace it, at least for now.
"A lot of solution providers sell EMC only," he said. "This is a chance for them to work with HDS. Relationships change all the time. Our [TagmaStore] Universal Storage Platform is a chance for them. This year, they can sell EMC behind the Universal Storage Platform. Next year, they can sell Hitachi or HP behind it."
Chuck Hollis, vice president of storage platform marketing at archrival EMC, said TagmaStore doesn't impress him.
"[Hitachi is] trying to tell the world that the array does the virtualization," Hollis said. "Other vendors say virtualization is in the network, including EMC, Cisco, IBM and Veritas. Then Hitachi says, 'Spend $450,000 and up, and we manage it all.' It's the first time [someone has claimed this] in the industry."
Sun's StorEdge 9990 is the same as the TagmaStore Universal Storage Platform, and will be available through Sun's 60 Elite Storage partners in North America.
Sun has already started technical and sales training for the 9990 in conjunction with MOCA and GE Access, said Graham Wilson, product boss for the 9990.
HP's XP12000, on the other hand, is a slight variation on TagmaStore, with some firmware and software differences, said Kyle Fitze, director of marketing for HP's online storage division. About 40 percent of HP's XP sales go through the channel, he said.
HDS's Genereux said the "TagmaStore" name comes from the Greek word "tagma," which means to put in order. That name will become part of an overall brand awareness move, he said.
HDS probably needs some kind of tagline or other promotion in order to help people understand the TagmaStore name, said Advanced Systems Group's Murphy. "If they do that, it may make a lot more sense to people not in the Hitachi inner circle," he said.