A Tale of Two Announcements

Important announcements from Hitachi Data Systems and Computer Associates may look similar from 50,000 feet, but on closer inspection they're quite different.

Two important announcements were made by leading storage technology vendors during the past couple of weeks that you might have missed if, like me, you were too busy trying to outrun hurricanes Charley, Frances, and Ivan to pay attention to press announcements. One was Hitachi Data Systems’ announcement on September 7 of the Hitachi TagmaStore Universal Storage Platform. The other was Computer Associate’s September 13 announcement of BrightStor version 11.1.

Viewed from 50,000 feet, the two are much the same product. In their spokespersons’ own words, they are both “integrated storage management solutions.” But hurricanes all seem pretty much the same, too, until they come to shore on your beach.

Hurricane Charley had just about everyone nailing up the plywood here in Tampa Bay, where the storm seemed destined to make landfall. However, I confess to having experienced a single dark moment of glee at the thought of the storm hitting the region head on, and quite possibly toppling all of the evacuated hotels and condominiums that today block public access to most of the once pristine coastline from St. Petersburg up to Dunedin. The idea that nature itself would remove these concrete sun blockers and return the Gulf Beaches to the “pre-industrialized” state that I enjoyed as a young boy brought a fleeting smile to my face.

It was a bit like the momentary pleasure I experienced as I listened to Hitachi Ltd. Information and Telecommunications Division COO Naoyi Takahashi and Hitachi Data Systems CEO Shinjiro Iwata take the stage in New York City to describe the HDS TagmaStore platform, which they touted as “an entirely new paradigm” for managed storage technology. (You can hear the Webcast of the event for yourself at http://www.hds.com/go/nyc_webcast.html.)

Iwata said that TagmaStor manifested his company’s strategy intended to deliver “an integrated framework of hardware, software, and services to align storage with business process requirements.” Behind him was a PowerPoint slide of a block diagram bearing the title “Application Optimized Storage” that reminded me a lot of a block diagram of storage management functionality presented by HDS COO Hu Yoshida more than a decade earlier, back when he was employed by IBM.

Next on the podium was Scott Genereux, Senior Vice President of Global Channels and Marketing for the vendor, who talked the talk often covered in this column, about storage consumer frustration and disappointment with current storage technology. Interestingly, he cited as as the root cause of consumer discontent the “law of diminishing returns” as it applied to older big-iron storage technology products.

HDS’s solution, according to Genereux: centralize all data using HDS TagmaStor, essentially a Lightning array on steroids, and create one virtual storage pool that can then be segregated into multiple virtual storage machines and managed from a single console. It sounded a lot like more big iron to me.

The TagmaStor array would basically leverage its crossbar switch architecture to combine LUNs from EMC, HDS, IBM, and even Joe’s JBODs into a single virtual entity capable of handling two million IOs per second and featuring 68 GB per second of cached bandwidth, 256 concurrent memory operations, and support for up to 32 petabytes of capacity (332 TB of which would be native disk on board the TagmaStor Universal Storage Platform itself).

There was a lot of discussion of TagmaStor’s universal management philosophy, and considerable hat tipping to SNIA and the Storage Management Initiative-Specification (SMI-S), which the product embraces. About the only thing missing was an out-and-out announcement that the company was buying AppIQ, the SMI-S heavy storage management software vendor that provides much of HDS’ integrated management story today.

A week later, just as we were getting the “all clear” following the passage of Hurricane Frances, which hit the Florida’s East Coast then sauntered over to Tampa Bay just to be annoying, Computer Associates decided it was time to announce the latest release of its BrightStor storage management product family. Normally, we wouldn’t give any ink to an incremental versioning of a storage management product, but Jim Geronaitis, Vice President of Product Marketing BrightStor Solutions, made it clear that this was a big deal.

In an interview, Geronaitis hailed version 11.1 as a “complete integration” of the many point products comprising BrightStor family, getting the products more aligned to work together the way that IT managers need for them to work together. What this amounts to is a capability to perform a task that involves several BrightStor components without having to leave one and start the next. Pretty neat, though not yet the level of integration that CA engineers are ultimately heading for: a common database schema for all products (“integration at the data level”).

The most important part of the announcement was a new component, the BrightStor Process Automation Manager, which enables you to create workflows across products and create templates from them that simplify and automate complex-but-commonly-performed storage management functions. We liked this idea when it was introduced by Invio Software a year or two ago, and figured that CA was going to do something comparable in its own product family when it passed on acquiring Invio, allowing that company to be sucked up by rival Veritas in July.

The business process view of infrastructure afforded by CA is without a doubt the best in the industry. The company’s focus on tightening the integration of its own product set while competitors are still out buying third-party software to complement their existing components seems likely, to my meager mind, to give CA a bit of a lead going forward.

Interestingly, Geronaitis seems unconcerned about the appearance of rivals such as EMC and now Hitachi Data Systems in his space. Despite the appeal of a “one-throat-to-choke” value proposition presented by newcomers to the storage management world (the big iron-peddlers-turned-software-vendors), he says that strategic customers will continue to favor the platform agnostic solution because of the superior business flexibility that his approach ultimately affords.

Another interesting sidebar: CA, which has deep roots in enterprise automation and management, is plying insights learned there to improve its storage management capability – which Geronaitis correctly refers to as “data management.” By contrast, rival Veritas seems bent on building a “utility computing” capability founded on its storage management expertise. It will be interesting to see who makes soup first.

Drying out here in Florida, I welcome your views. jtoigo@intnet.net

About the Author

Jon William Toigo is chairman of The Data Management Institute, the CEO of data management consulting and research firm Toigo Partners International, as well as a contributing editor to Enterprise Systems and its Storage Strategies columnist. Mr. Toigo is the author of 14 books, including Disaster Recovery Planning, 3rd Edition, and The Holy Grail of Network Storage Management, both from Prentice Hall.