Hitachi flashes updated top end VSP

Promises ultra coolness

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Behold VSP: Hitachi has updated its USP-V enterprise storage array to produce the Virtual Storage Platform (VSP) claiming it is a single platform for managing block, file and content data.

Hitachi claims the VSP delivers the best performance and capacity levels combined with the lowest power and lower cooling requirements.

The system has thin provisioning and Dynamic Tiering software which moves 48MB pages of data automatically between three tiers of storage: solid state drives in tier zero, 15,000rpm 2.5-inch SAS hard disk drives in tier one, and 7,200rpm 2TB SATA drives in tier 2. One customer estimated this feature would save him half a sysadmin person per year in costs.

Bob Plumridge, Hitachi Data Systems' technical marketing director for EMEA, aid the automated tiering means customers will never have to classify data ever again. The automatic data movement can be across tiers in both the internal and connected external storage: like the USP-V the VSP can virtualise external third-party arrays.

The basic architecture of multiple controllers sharing a global cache linked by a non-blocking, crossbar architecture switch to the back-end storage has been retained but with faster processors, more internal bandwidth and a SAS 6Gbit/s back-end storage link and not Fibre Channel as before. There are up to 128 6Gbit/s paths out to the disks and solid state drives. The switching fabric is now called a Grid Switch Layer.

There can be up to eight Virtual Storage Director (VSD; the controller) pairs which use Intel processors, have a local meta-cache, and have a blade-based architecture, unlike the USP-V's proprietary controller design. They share a 1TB cache, which may increase in future. There is another layer of cache between the back end storage enclosures and the Grid Switch Layer. VSD data is de-staged to solid state memory and the USP's battery backup scheme is no longer required.

The minimum system is a single pair of VSDs, for high-availability, with no internal storage. This system is a pure virtualisation engine to virtualise multi-vendor external arrays and there can be up to 255PB of externally managed storage.

Customers then have various options for adding internal storage (capacity blocks) to populate up to six racks. There can be up to 256 solid state drives (SSDs) from STEC in either 200GB 2.5-inch format or 400GB 3.5-inch format. Customers can install up to 2,048 SAS 2.5-inch drives (1.2PB of storage) or 1,280 SATA 3.5-inch drives (2.5PB). The SAS dries have lower power needs than fast 3.5-inch drives and deliver more IOPS from the higher spindle count per rack enclosure. Customers buy disk blocks with up to 40 3.5-inch or 64 2.5-inch HDD per block.

Plumridge says the VSP offers up to 192 Fibre Channel host connections, 60 per cent more than the USP-V, up to 192 IBM FICON 8 Gbit/s host ports, 96 Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) host 10 Gbit/s ports.The USP-V supported ESCON as well.

Hitachi says the VSP has 3D scaling with scale up, scale out and scale deep. Scale up means more resources within an existing system, while scale out is adding Virtual Storage Directors, more disk blocks and more host connections. Scale deep is not new as it refers to virtualising third-party arrays which the USP-V already does.

There is an enhanced management platform which can also manage other HDS storage products.

The VSP uses industry-standard 19-inch racks and a front to back airflow scheme has been introduced. The individual disk storage and logic blocks have temperature sensors and the system uses this to automatically adjust the cooling fan speed in the block so as not to waste power cooling a block which is already cool, such as a low data access rate SATA block.

Plumridge said that the VSP does not have primary deduplication at his point in time. Hitachi's high-end NAS partner BlueArc has just signed a deal to use Permabit's Albireo primary deduplication software technology.

Lynn Collier, Hitachi's software and solutions director in EMEA, said customers with the VSP should reduce their storage total cost of ownership by a least 33 per cent in the first year and lower subsequent storage acquisition costs by up to 70 per cent, with power and cooling costs lowered by 30 per cent a year. The VSP uses a single-phase power supply and is designed for 24 x 7 operation. The VSP has 40 per cent better capacity per square foot and 48 per cent lower power consumption per terabyte compared to the USP-V.

Collier said that the VSP can be logically partitioned and Hitachi's Content Archive Platform would sit above it and use the VSP as its storage resource.

Michael Vath, Hitachi's SVP and general manage for EMEA, said: "IT has to be virtualised, cloud-ready and sustainable," and the VSP is designed exactly for these things.

An EMC spokesperson said: "At a high level, the market is visibly moving away from HDS. It's lost its momentum, lacks critical virtual server integration and expertise, and is not able to meet today’s requirements to support a virtualised infrastructure and the private cloud. While a hardware refresh is exactly what you'd expect to see from HDS given the age, complexity, and lack of competitiveness of their current technology, it does nothing to dramatically change its position or dynamics in the marketplace."

"Hitachi is long overdue for a refresh. Hitachi USP was launched six years ago (Sept ’04); the USP-V “mid-life kicker” was launched three years ago (Sept ’07) and during that time EMC introduced Symmetrix DMX-3 and DMX-4, and Symmetrix VMAX a new ground breaking, multi-core, platform purpose built for the virtual data center, first to market with SSDs and FAST (Fully Automated Storage Tiering), time to provision a TB of storage has dropped by over 80 per cent."

The VSP looks to be a solid and effective refresh of HDS' top-end storage product and, if deduplication is added, it will have another attractive refresh in the future. It is available from Monday with prices starting at $234,000. ®

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