Unisys readies Sentinel to watch over storage systems

Unisys Corp. rolled out a new storage system Tuesday that is designed to direct the flow of data across a company's current storage hardware.

The Storage Sentinel is a large system -- 36U high (63 inches) -- that fits into an existing storage area network (SAN) and provides one, central place for managing numerous storage servers. The product should help companies form a picture of how much overall storage capacity they have and then let them shuffle data in an efficient way across this "pool" of hardware. Unisys will deliver the product in early September for US$200,000, along with providing various consulting and technical services to help customers get the system up and running, said Bill Jefferis, director of storage management solutions at Unisys.

"When you talk about something as complex and volatile as the storage industry, it makes sense to address the needs of customers and deliver something today," Jefferis said. "This a flag worth planting."

Unisys, based in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, is not the first vendor to stake its claim in the storage management business with this type of product. A number of companies such as EMC Corp., Hitachi Data Systems Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. claim to provide software and hardware that makes it possible to manage disparate storage systems from one place.

Many of the major storage companies have joined the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) to help set standards that will make it easier to manage storage systems from multiple vendors. Unisys's new system will comply with SNIA's Common Information Model standards, Jefferis said.

Unisys is already working to certify the Storage Sentinel with storage gear from EMC and IBM Corp.

The Storage Sentinel can store up to 1.8T bytes of data and ships with redundant fans and power supplies. The product will connect into SANs via Fibre Channel.

Unisys will also provide services to help customers map out how the Storage Sentinel will fit into their existing SAN and how it can possibly lower management costs. Most customers will pay $150,000 for the hardware and software and then about another $50,000 for consulting and support, Jefferis said.

The suite of services provided by Unisys could be a strong selling point for the company, according to one analyst.

"The fact that they are providing professional services is very useful," said David Hill, research director of storage and storage management at the research firm Aberdeen Group Inc. in Boston. "People find this type of storage management extremely complex."

Hill added that Unisys' position as somewhat of a neutral vendor in the storage market could help the company.

"The other guys do have similar offerings, but the point is that Unisys is acting as an independent party in doing this," he said.

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