Hitachi, Sun, HP target EMC

Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard (HP) on Tuesday each moved further into EMC's territory by agreeing to resell Hitachi Data Systems' (HDS) latest storage servers.

The two companies separately announced they would offer HDS' new Lightning 9900a V-Series storage server. The Lightning 9900a is the hardware cornerstone of HDS' TrueNorth storage management initiative. Also launched Tuesday, TrueNorth is HDS' direct assault on EMC's similar AutoIS storage management initiative.

Sun and HP are each long-time re-sellers of HDS' Lightning products, but with the arrival of TrueNorth as an alternative to AutoIS, the decision by Sun and HP to offer the newest Lightning storage server represents a renewed, triple threat to EMC, according to Tony Prigmore, a senior analyst at Enterprise Storage Group Inc., in Milford, Mass.

Sun on Tuesday rolled out two new storage servers built on the shoulders of the Lightning 9900, the Sun StorEdge 9970 and 9980. The Redwood City, Calif.-based company also introduced a new StorEdge L5500 tape drive.

The high-end Sun StorEdge 9970 and 9980 run Sun's Solaris operating environment and deliver 2Gbps Fibre Channel connectivity, a modular blade-style architecture, and internal storage capacity virtualization, according to Sun.

Both new StorEdge systems add extra horsepower to Sun's enterprise storage offerings at the top end, according to Sun storage representative Samantha Moulton. She added that the StorEdge products give Sun customers one less reason to take calls from EMC sales representatives offering alternatives to Sun and Hitachi storage products.

HP on Tuesday also introduced two new storage servers with HDS Lightning lineages.

HP is targeting the HP XP1024 and XP128 at companies looking to run business intelligence applications atop large volumes of stored data, according to HP, in Palo Alto, Calif.

For maximum performance optimization, both HP systems allow users to mix or match a combination of either 36GB, 15,000rpm drives or 73GB, 10,000rpm drives. The XP1024 offers a usable storage capacity of 64TB. The XP128 offers 8.1TB of usable storage according to HP.

Although HP offers similar storage management technology tools to its customers through its Federated Area Storage Management initiative, HP users will benefit from any technology advances made by HDS under TrueNorth, said Jim Wilson, a product manger for HP's XP server team.

"If [HDS] has a product capability that comes out of TrueNorth, we will be selling it," Wilson said.

Although HDS' combined HP and Sun sales channels puts pressure on EMC, experts agree that, for HDS, TrueNorth came just in the nick of time.

"Hitachi has an install base through traditional Hitachi sales efforts and, more importantly, through HP and Sun, and this has put HDS in a situation where they have lots of storage clients that now have management problems," Prigmore said. "With EMC out there with AutoIS, it would have been impossible for Hitachi to continue to exist as a viable vendor unless they put in place a comprehensive storage management strategy. They had to do TrueNorth, customers were demanding it."

Taking a tip from EMC's AutoIS program, HDS on Tuesday unveiled its own enterprise storage management initiatives, called TrueNorth, at the NetWorld+Interop 2002 trade show in Las Vegas.

Similar to AutoIS, TrueNorth is a wide-reaching effort aimed at partnering with storage software developers and hardware companies, such as switch vendors, to deliver heterogeneous virtualization of storage resources. TrueNorth also will deliver a level of policy-based automation that finally permits storage administrators to manage multiple tasks, such as SRM (storage resource management) and storage network monitoring, to name only a few, from a single management console.

"Customers have been hitting the wall in terms of storage management," Prigmore said. "The whole reason there is so much energy focused on the storage management is because customers haven't had very good policy-based tools and automation. They've had resident function, but no framework."

TrueNorth looks to provide such a framework through the combination of storage software, storage hardware, and aggressive collaboration with third-party storage vendors that creates as open a storage framework as possible.

"TrueNorth as an over-riding strategy that has three key components," explained Chris Worrall, the vice president of product management with HDS, in Santa Clara, Calif.

HDS' HiCommand storage software will provide the management framework for TrueNorth, and HDS launched the Lightning 9900a V-Series storage server to fortify the hardware component.

The third leg of TrueNorth will be to pursue API trading partnerships with storage component vendors, friend and foe alike, to deliver the maximum amount of heterogeneous functionality to HDS storage networks.

"Key to our strategy is the ability to collaborate with all our partners, whether they be the independent software vendors or the IHV [hardware], or the customer to allow users to integrate solutions to be part of our open framework," Worrall said.

AutoIS and TrueNorth, initiatives from IBM Corp., and Veritas Software Corp.'s recent Powered storage virtualization program all mean good news for users.

"The good news for users is that the major storage suppliers are all finally rallying around their problems," Prigmore said.

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