HDS fixin' to bring out common storage platform
One VSP ring to rule them all
El Reg understands that Hitachi Data Systems wants to move to having a single storage platform that can cover both high-end and mid-range storage needs.
Discussions with HDS executives and Bob Plumridge, its chief technology officer in EMEA, covered the AMS mid-range storage area and what lies ahead. The point was made that having two separate storage lines was undesirable, as customers face a migration from one product to the other. It would be much better if, say, an AMS 2500 customer could simply swap out the AMS controller and replace it with a new one that enabled scalability into and up through the VSP high-end storage line.
The VSP storage array line uses Intel X86 processors whereas the AMS line does not. It begins to look as if the AMS roadmap includes a shift to X86 controller code and the execution of that code on the VSP. A new low-end or entry-level VSP would be produced which could be gradable to full VSP capability.
Were this to happen then AMS customers would gain, in theory, mainframe-attach, dynamic tiering, and third-party array virtualisation capabilities; three functions they do not have presently.
We understand that most AMS sales are made to enterprise customers, with some 80 per cent of HDS revenues coming from enterprises, customers who probably have VSP and the previous USP-V arrays as well. Having a single HDS storage platform would make life better for them in terms of storage management and support.
Making a VSP controller affordable for existing AMS customers could be achieved, in theory, by reducing its performance and/or functionality and making it upgradable. A side aspect of this is the development of common drive shelves for VSP and AMS environments.
This development strategy, if implemented in products, is not something that could happen in the next few weeks or months.
As a strategy it would enable HDS to leapfrog HP which had its own common storage platform strategy before the 3PAR purchase and which did not include the XP arrays OEM'd from Hitachi. EMC appears to have a strategy of moving to a single mid-range storage platform centred on the VNX product, although there are indications that the high-end VMAX  array could run mid-range array storage environments as well as the VMAX Enginuity operating system, with them all running as virtual machines under an ESX hypervisor.
Neither Dell, IBM nor Oracle appear to have unified storage platforms in their development roadmaps. Neither does NetApp with its purchases of Bycast for object storage and Engenio for high-speed block array applications.
H blocks not
HDS has produced a reference architecture or template for use of HItachi 2000 Compute Blades, AMS storage and third-party networking switches in the Microsoft Hyper-V Cloud Fast Track  programme, in which servers run Hyper-V and other Microsoft system software. (We won't call these H-blocks because of allusions to Ireland, prisons and lock-in.)
This is the first appearance of Hitachi servers and storage as an integrated stack in the HDS product range. Two more templates are coming. When HDS people were asked about similar configurations for Cisco servers and VMware they smiled.
There is no indication that Hitachi network products are about to make an appearance in these integrated stacks.
On a separate note the HDS people were not seeing any demand from their customers for all-flash arrays.
El Reg would not be surprised if HDS' unified storage platform strategy was announced towards the end of the year, possibly in early 2012. ®