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Understanding Hitachi's plunge into the blue

HDS' NAS trajectory

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Last year, Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) made an unexpected investment in BlueArc, and also signed a 5-year deal with the company. The attraction? High-performance network-attached storage (NAS).

Prior to the BlueArc deal, HDS had two NAS products, both based on the same technology; a Debian Linux x86 server presenting file-based data through CIFS, via Samba, and NFS protocols.

Andy Williams, HDS' EMEA NAS business manager, said that HDS has a 'file services approach to NAS,' and outlined the product range. One product was a blade inserted in the USP controller. This controlled a set-aside portion of the USP array's block storage for file storage. It was not a NAS head or gateway, instead being, as it were, a NAS file storage reservation inside a block storage silo.

The other product was a modular array, an AMS 200 for example, given a brain transplant, to continue using colourful metaphors. Its normal controller is replaced by the appropriately-packaged NAS x86 board and it becomes a NAS filer, what Williams called: "NAS Attachment for modular storage."

This gave HDS two cuts at the NAS market cake but it was missing a high-end offering, a high-performance NAS product, one up in Isilon's clustered NAS territory. HDS could build one, by developing its existing NAS technology but that would take considerable time and money. Instead it chose to go a combination of the buy-in technology and partner routes by investing an undisclosed amount in BlueArc and signing a deal to OEM its hardware-assisted fast NAS boxes.

These are used for such things as movie rendering, Weta Digital for example, as well as oil and gas data processing, healthcare and financial applications demanding fast access to masses of file-based data.


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