Hitachi File Storage Platforms
by Michael Hay on Mar 11, 2008
Today Hitachi is announcing quite a bit in the area of file storage platforms. To start with are core updates in our underlying platforms. From the debut of the Essential NAS Platform (ENP), a hardware update on the High Performance NAS Platform, and a software revision in the Content Archive Platform; to the entrance of a new product suite for us: the Hitachi Data Discovery Suite that includes two offerings. I want to provide some amount of detail, but not what we are stressing in the announcements. This will be more about behind the scenes kinds of things.
High Performance NAS Platform (HNAS)
Before I get too far into this I do want to bring up a point close t o my heart which I hear on a regular basis: well isn’t HDS just going to drop Bluearc like you did with NetApp? To start with the relationship with BlueArc is 1000% different. My colleague, Shmuel Shottan CTO of BlueArc, is my personal mentour and good friend; however, that really doesn’t summarize the total relationship with BlueArc. The two companies enjoy a symbiotic relationship which spans mutual respect, trust and a shared vision. You will see that in the intentional alignment between our two companies as well as the fact that HDS has engineers with source code access at the BlueArc site in the UK. This was done because when both companies got down to it we realized that in order to implement our mutual strategies in a timely manner the best thing was to increase the engineering resources in key areas like offloading some portion of the full content indexing process and performing HSM migrations to/from externally attached NAS and active archive devices. Beyond the shared strategy and co-development activities HDS owns an equity stake in BlueArc, something that was not the case with NetApp. So hopefully this tells our user base that our relationship is entirely different and growing in a positive direction. Okay just because I don’t want to hear myself talk and all don’t take my word for it here’s what Shmuel had to say about our partnership.
I consider myself extremely fortunate for having the opportunity to work closely with HDS and with Michael in particular over the last 18 months. Being called a mentor by Michael is a great honor. relationships last only when they are symbiotic and reciprocal. I have indeed received much more than I transmitted. While it seems as if Michael and I are trying to compete for the “most humble” award, my observation is sincere. The relationship between the companies is a true partnership. BlueArc is more than a technology provider or just a NAS component provider to Hitachi. Together we have improved our product offerings and embarked on a roadmap to deliver value through tighter integration. BlueArc has gained much more than just increasing its routes to market. Michael has provided me with enormous and invaluable insight to what Hitachi’s customers actually need. This closed loop review has allowed me to channel the innovations we “dream” at BlueArc towards building products that solve the customer’s needs. – Shmuel Shottan Chief Technology Officer, BlueArc
Essential NAS Platform (ENP)
Well there is a lot to say here, and like HNAS, I’ll be focusing on stuff which is “behind the scenes”. One thing that I did want to relate is the attention paid into making this modular NAS device highly reliable. Unlike some of our competitors, in the modular NAS space, who merely use simple heart-beating mechanisms to make their NAS devices achieve HA, the ENP actually has hardware offloaded HA and support mechanisms, existing below the firmware and independent of the internal kernel. In the unlikely event that one of the nodes goes out to lunch the other one can actually force the takeover by issuing a command over the HA channel killing the second node. This kind of attention to detail and processor separation is not something that you will find on another competitive modular NAS device, by the way if you aren’t getting it I mean NetApp. I cannot stress enough the level of attention to detail across the board especially when it comes to reliability. It is kind of hard to relate this level of attention to detail, because one doesn’t find it valuable until there is an outage and you realize that that Hitachi stuff didn’t go down. So it is kind of one of those things that everyone needs but is hopefully rarely used, I guess in that sense it is kind of like life insurance. There are after all two main types of life insurance whole life and term life. Generally whole life is an absolute guarantee potentially with a lot of bells and whistles. Where as term is generally less expensive with less bells and whistles. The ENP is rather like term life, it gets the job done it is reliable and it is less expensive than the competition in the same market segment.
Content Archive Platform (HCAP)
As previously mentioned HCAP is a really strong product capable of solving many use cases, like archiving and Web 2.0 storage, in a single bound — Superman reference intended. Not only is the product rock solid, but the engineering team that makes HCAP is second to none. So my behind the scenes point here is really a shout out to the engineering team. In fact one of them, Jack Orenstein, is already engaged in a speaking spot at PGCon since HCAP makes use of patented technology on top of Postgres. One other topic I want to point to is the reliability of the system, pointing back again to Hitachi’s attention on extreme reliability. Soon we will be publishing a white paper on the patent pending technology within HCAP making it 500x more reliable than competitive products. This work was through the development of a mathematical algorithm to right place the data for extreme reliability. When coupled to SAIN the combination of the HCA software we are getting the best of both worlds serious protection from Hitachi backed ASIC driven RAID plus protections from the software stack. (Note that when the paper is available I’ll do a deeper dive on it. Further, this technology has been deployed for nearly a year now.)
Data Discovery Suite (HDDS)
This is a net new offering by Hitachi, breaking new ground for us. Backing the development effort is Hitachi Software Engineering corporation working in collaboration with Hitachi Data Systems — code speak for HDS being embedded as an integral member of the engineering activities. There are a lot of things contained within this product and I’m quite personally proud of it. The most striking and important thing is the focus on usability for non-IT users. We really did spend a lot of time with HR personnel, Intellectual Property/Patent specialists, corporate lawyers, employment attorneys and IT personnel to understand the challenges in this space. The usability is literally pushed all the way down to the user’s desktop via a Microsoft Vista Desktop gadget. In essence a non-IT worker can span a search across multiple NAS and archive devices without being aware of that fact. Further we looked at common metaphors which these users could grok to assist them with file recovery: shopping carts. Essentially in the Data Discovery Suite, there is a concept called a collection. Users may add many files into this collection, and when they are ready download the entire collection as a ZIP package that includes all of the files added into the collection regardless of the location. I can go on and on here, but I’ll reserve things for a future post since this is getting a little bit long.
[...] the joint vision the two companies had been working on for the better part of 18 months, and as my previous blog post recounts in some detail. Our shared vision and spirit of collaboration has led to many customer [...]