Hitachi Bolts into Enterprise Storage Field

FRAMINGHAM (06/30/2000) - If Hitachi Data Systems Inc. has its way, Lightning will strike enterprise storage rival EMC Corp.

Santa Clara, California-based HDS this week unveiled Freedom Storage 9900, code-named Lightning, a high-end storage array that scales up to 37 terabytes.

The 9900 features an internal switched bus architecture that supplies bandwidth of up to 6.4GB/sec. As many as 64 concurrent, large-scale data transfers can occur, and as the data load increases, the system processes the information faster, said Steve Duplessie, an analyst at Enterprise Storage Group Inc. in Milford, Massachusetts.

In comparison, EMC's Symmetrix 8000, an upgrade launched in April, offers bandwidth of up to 1.4GB/sec, according to analysts.

Duplessie and other analysts gave Hitachi's 9900 high marks for its hardware.

"For customers, this will be eye-catching," said William Hurley, an analyst at The Yankee Group in Boston. HDS made "significant steps forward in terms of capacity and performance," as well as offering full Fibre Channel data transfer capability, he said.

Although they praised the 9900, analysts said HDS will have to bolster its sales and marketing efforts to compete effectively against EMC.

"[HDS] has one of the best [storage] lines, but [is] weak in marketing," said Chuck Standefer, an analyst at Evaluator Group Inc. in Englewood, Colorado. "If it strengthens its efforts, [HDS] could severely impact EMC," forcing EMC to roll out new technology, Standefer said.

Marlene Woodworth, HDS' vice president of product management and marketing for enterprise products, defended the company's marketing efforts, noting that it is promoting the 9900 over the Web and in other media as part of a major ad campaign.

According to HDS, approximately five of the 9900 systems that have been produced so far have been sold to selected customers. The company expects volume shipments to begin in early September.

Predictably, EMC said it doesn't see the 9900 as a threat.

HDS "is in a hurry-up offense, and they rushed the product into market before it was ready, which is consistent with their history," said Dave Farmer, an EMC spokesman in Hopkinton, Massachusetts.

The 9900's software features are similar to those in Symmetrix, analysts said.

But Farmer disputed that, claiming the 9900 "is severely lacking in new software functionality," which he said has been an "Achilles' heel for Hitachi."

HDS insists it's prepared to go head-to-head with EMC.

"We're ready to go, we're the first to the market with this thing, and it's time we show what we can do," said Don McNicoll, director of product marketing at HDS.

Pricing for the 9900 ranges from $600,000 to $12 million, depending on configuration.

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