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Hitachi's Universal Storage Platform V is virtually huge

Thin provisioning, fat box

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Hitachi lifted the curtain today on the next iteration of its high-end virtualizing storage system, the Universal Storage Platform V.

The USPV offers a performance boost over previous Tagmastore systems. In addition, the new hardware ships thin provisioning software - technology yet to be implemented by Hitachi's high-end rivals.

The new hardware can handle 3.5 million input-output operations per second — a 40 per cent boost from its predecessor, launched in 2004. The USPV also offers a 4GB/sec Fibre Channel Switch backplane for connections to disk drives and hosts. The array now supports 16 controller pairs for a total of 224 font-end Fibre Channel ports and 112 FICON or ESCON host ports. The device hold up to 1152 drives.

While internal storage has stayed the same at 332TB, virtualized external storage gets a major boost from its previous incarnation's 32PB to up to 247PB.

"This is a big box for big users," principal IT advisor of Illuminata, John Webster said. "It's clearly not for the faint of heart. You've really got to know what you're doing with a device like this."

Hitachi promises a major improvement in disk utilization with the array's use of thin provisioning. While the technology isn't new, the system is the first high-end device of its kind to use it.

Thin provisioning is a technology debuted by 3PAR where physical disk capacity is used only as needed for virtual volumes. It replaces the traditional method where large portions of storage capacity are allocated to applications but often remain unused.

Webster doesn't see the device's "speeds and feeds" as the only highlight of Hitachi's release. "So it's big," Webster said, "There's another interesting thing going on here."

When the first Tagmastore USP box was released, Webster said, the device had the potential to virtualize arrays from other vendors. The debate then was if it would work to consolidate not only storage platforms but also storage services and storage management operations under a single controller. Webster sees the extension of the USP line as Hitachi's proof in the pudding.

"There are about 4,500 units out — half of which virtualize across unlike storage devices," Webster said. "Now Hitachi is saying they've proved it works, and they're really going to go after this opportunity."

The USP V will be available mid-June, starting at around $250,000. Hitachi has licensed the USP system to Hewlett-Packard, which will use it in the StorageWorks XP24000 disk array, scheduled for July. ®

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