HDS Partners With Network Appliance In NAS Play

At the Storage Networking World conference, being held here this week, HDS executives unveiled a series of NAS gateways OEMed from Network Appliance. These gateways do not have any intrinsic storage capacity, but instead allow data to be stored on HDS arrays and be served to a company's network as if they were stored on a NAS appliance.

On Tuesday, HDS unveiled the GF940, which allows up to 9 Tbytes of capacity on an HDS Lightning 9970 or 9980 array to be accessed in file format as if it were stored on a NAS subsystem, said Kevin Sampson, director of marketing for the company's NAS products. Two GF940s can be clustered.

HDS also unveiled the GF960, which is similar to the GF940 except that capacity scales to up to 24 Tbytes with a single unit or 48 Tbytes when two are clustered, said Sampson.

Both the GF940 and the GF960 are available starting Tuesday.

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HDS also introduced the GF825, which scales to 9 Tbytes, or 18 Tbytes when clustered, for its Thunder 9500 V series of arrays. It is expected to be available June 30. The company also plans to introduce other models aimed at adding NAS capabilities to its legacy SAN arrays in the next quarter.

HDS will also resell Network Appliance's snap copy software, said Sampson.

The GF series of NAS gateways are the same devices as some of the NAS appliances sold by Network Appliance, except the data is stored on the HDS arrays.

"From the software side, customers don't know the NAS is connected to a Hitachi SAN," Sampson said. "The NAS manager also does not see the difference because the snap copy or any backup software certified with Network Appliance's Data on Tap software works the same. But customers get the Hitachi functionality in terms of management and backup."

This makes HDS' third attempt to enter the NAS space. The company sold a few NAS heads OEMed from Network Storage Solutions and Auspex in the past, and still sells a few Auspex units in Asia, but has been looking for a new partner, Sampson said.

HDS initially will sell the NAS gateways direct and will only target channel partners that sell both Hitachi arrays and Network Appliance NAS appliances, Sampson said. "We may expand to other channel partners in the future," he said. "But to get to market quickest, we decided to do it this way. We didn't want to spend the time to train partners."

Solution providers say the deal with Network Appliance is a good move, but wonder whether HDS has fully considered its entire strategy.

One HDS solution provider, who preferred to remain unnamed, said conflict between HDS and Network Appliance sales goals could occur.

"Say you're in a deal, and the NTAP [Network Appliance] guy is in that deal, too," the solution provider said. "Will the NTAP guy want to give up the disk part of the deal? Hitachi is not going to pay the NTAP guy. So I'm always skeptical with these kind of arrangements."

Another solution provider said the idea of a NAS gateway is an excellent one, but it is unfortunate HDS will not allow it to be sold via partners that have not signed up with Network Appliance.

Sun Microsystems, which resells HDS arrays, has its own NAS strategy and so is not expected to resell the new NAS gateway, said Sampson. Solution providers that work with the three vendors will be able to resell the NAS gateway from HDS, but they will not receive Sun support for it, he said.

HDS will not sell or support the new NAS gateways for its arrays that HP resells on an OEM basis because of licensing issues and the fact that the HP version of HDS' arrays have some software differences, Sampson said.

Sometime in the next one or two quarters, HDS also plans to unveil its e-NAS products, said Sampson. E-NAS is an embedded blade that allows data on an HDS array to be shared between SAN and NAS applications. "Unlike the NAS gateways, there will be no dedicated NAS capacity when e-NAS blades are used," he said.

The company also plans to unveil an entry-level NAS product later this year, Sampson said.