Hardware Today: Storage Explosion to Disk Array Boom

by Drew Robb

The explosion in storage has helped shape the booming disk array market. Options are available in all shapes and sizes from EMC, Hitachi, HP, NetApp, and Sun.

The explosion in storage usage has resulted in a booming disk array market. To accommodate burgeoning needs, a host of vendors now offer a wide range of products, from high-end arrays that hold as much as one petabyte of data, to midsize boxes, to solutions aimed at the small business.

"Over the last eight years, the average annual growth of information stored on disk arrays exceeded 60 percent," says Tom Joyce, EMC vice president of storage platforms marketing. "This year we project the growth will exceed 70 percent."

According to IDC, the disk array market is growing at a healthy clip, although it is not quite keeping pace with the rise in storage capacity. During the past year, the market grew 18 percent. Whatever way the numbers are crunched, EMC is the market leader. In disk arrays for storage-area networks (SANs), EMC is tops with 25 percent, followed by HP (24.8 percent) and IBM (14.3 percent). Dell, which sells primarily EMC gear, accounts for 8.3 percent, followed by Hitachi (with 7.2 percent) and Sun (with 6.9 percent). In network-attached storage (NAS) arrays, EMC leads with 40.2 percent, followed by Network Appliance (35.2 percent) and HP (6.4 percent).


What is driving growth? Joyce cites less-expensive tools for connectivity and consolidation, the advent of disk-based backup, and iSCSI, as what is making it possible for small businesses to afford a SAN over IP instead of more expensive Fibre Channel (FC). Case in point, at the low-end, EMC offers the CLARiiON AX100/AX100i with either FC or iSCSI connections. It has 12 serial ATA drives in a 2U (3.5") rack-mountable enclosure. Capacity ranges from 480 GB to 3 TB, and pricing begins at around $5,000.

In the middle of the EMC product portfolio is the CLARiiON CX500/CX500i. It holds up to 120 disk drives in 25U of rack space with a capacity of up to 38 TB. It scales to support up to 128 dual-connected hosts, and it is available for a FC or iSCSI network.

At the top of the EMC line is the Symmetrix DMX-3. Its capacity is 1,000 TBs on as many as 960 disk drives. Ports can be configured with FICON, ESCON, FC, native Gigabit Ethernet, and iSCSI. This comes at a price, however. The unit starts at $250,000, depending on the configuration.

EMC anticipates selling plenty of its lower-end boxes while continuing to do well in the midrange and high end. The size of the customer, its storage demands, and its performance needs will dictate which arrays it purchases. Further, organizations are increasingly adopting a tiered strategy storage that accommodates storage systems spanning an entire product range.

"Organizations will continue to [use] entry-level disk arrays, such as the CLARiiON AX100, to extend their information infrastructure or even deploy their first SAN," says Joyce. "We believe customers will continue to apply a cost-effective tiered approach to their storage strategy by implementing different types of disk systems for various classes of tasks."


The big news from Network Appliance (NetApp) concerns the FAS3000 storage systems series, which is designed to provide price/performance for midrange storage. The FAS3050 holds up to 50 TB of raw capacity and 336 disk drives

"With more and more high-end storage array capabilities now being offered by midrange storage systems, there is an emerging trend of enterprise applications like Oracle, SAP, Exchange, and SQL Server being well-served by midrange enterprise storage systems," says Chris Bennett, senior director of products at NetApp. "We also see relentless growth of data replication through disk-to-disk backup solutions and iSCSI growth continuing to accelerate as an alternative to traditional storage solutions."

At the low end, the company's FAS270 can support low-cost SATA drives in production applications. It has a maximum of 16 TB and 56 drives and uses advanced RAID configurations to eliminate the risk of two drives simultaneously failing. At the higher end of the Net App range sits the new FAS980, which has up to 100 TB and 672 drives.

>> HP, HDS, Sun


HP cites the key trends in the disk array market as being: grid-enabled storage solutions, support for iSCSI and 4 GB FC infrastructures, smaller form factor hard disk drives, and SAS drives. Accordingly, during the past six months, HP has made significant announcements in the high end, midrange, and entry array spaces. For enterprises, the company launched the HP StorageWorks XP10000 Disk Array. The XP10000 delivers virtualization technology that provides external storage device support to enable tiered storage up to 16 Petabytes. Array partitioning eases provisioning, while array-to-array local and remote data copying enables multisite disaster tolerance. Its has a cache of up to 128 GB, up to 1,152 disk drives, supports RAID 1 through RAID 6, and its maximum sequential performance is 8 GB per second.

HP also introduced its StorageWorks Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA) in its midrange products. This series includes the EVA4000, EVA6000, and EVA8000, which feature anywhere from 56 to 240 drives. The new EVA products come with related management and replication software, new multipathing products and support, and complementary solutions for high-performance network file serving, data backup, and fast recovery for Microsoft Exchange environments.

The small business market is the third area to which HP is devoting much attention. It recently launched the HP StorageWorks 1510i Modular Smart Array for SMB customers and departmental and remote offices. The MSA1510i, an iSCSI interface based 2U controller unit connects to both HP StorageWorks Serial ATA (SATA) and SCSI disk enclosures. It has a maximum capacity of 24 TB for up to 96 drives.

"The MSA1510i is perfect for less-expensive storage solutions using SATA enclosures to store data that doesn't require a high degree of I/O performance and/or is viewed as non-mission-critical to business operations," says Kyle Fitze, director of marketing for StorageWorks SAN Division.

Hitachi Data Systems

Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) continues to polish its TagmaStore platform. At the top of the line sits the TagmaStore Universal Storage Platform (USP). Its embedded virtualization layer can manage up to 32 petabytes of internal and external storage, logical partitions across internal and externally attached storage, and storage-agnostic remote copy that simplifies business continuity.

The midrange is highlighted by TagmaStore Network Storage Controller (NSC). It takes most of the features of USP, such as a parallel crossbar switch architecture for high availability and multitasking; a large-scale controller-based virtualization layer; logical partitioning; and storage-agnostic replication — in a, rack-mounted, modular form factor. For example, the NSC55, which has a capacity of 5 TB, carries an entry list price of approximately $150,000.

"The TagmaStore Network Storage Controller brings high-end enterprise functionality and performance to the broader midrange market and midsize businesses," says Claus Mikkelsen, chief scientist at Hitachi Data Systems.

Like most vendors, HDS is expanding its SMB products. The TagmaStore Workgroup Modular Storage (WMS) and Adaptable Modular Storage (AMS) are aimed at both SMB and tiered storage in a multitiered environment. It includes cache partitioning, RAID 6, up to 512 attached hosts, a raw capacity of 42 TB, and a maximum mirrored cache of 2 GB. HDS' low-end SATA-only WMS100 has an entry price of just under $20,000 for 1.5 TB (scales up to 42 TB). With an entry point of 5 TB, the AMS200 carries an entry list price of $40,000.

Sun Microsystems

The big news from Sun these past few months is the acquisition of StorageTek, a company very strong in tape hardware, including tape libraries and autoloaders. The acquisition driver? The race to become the leader in the nascent information lifecycle management space. Sun's recent high-end work centers around the StorEdge 9985 system, a scaled-down version of the StorEdge 9990. Both models offer high-end data center customers controller-based storage virtualization to simplify storage consolidation and create a tiered storage infrastructure. It also includes resource partitioning to better manage service-level agreements and the replication technology for better business continuity planning.

For the midrange segment, Sun enhanced its StorEdge 6920 system. It supports advanced copy services and intelligent tiered storage and manages heterogeneous storage systems. It also includes Sun StorEdge Data Replicator software to protect data from outages and disasters.

"With the ability to manage external storage systems, the StorEdge 6920 allows customers to tier and manage heterogeneous storage systems creating an intelligent storage network," says Kathleen Holmgren, vice president, disk systems business, data management group, Sun Microsystems.

In the entry space, Sun has shaken up the Sun StorEdge 3500 lineup. The 3320 array is two-and-a-half times faster than Gigabit Ethernet and 3.2 times faster than 1 GB Fiber Channel arrays. It is intended as a storage complement to new Sun Fire X64 servers.

Active Market

What can be expected in the disk array market in the coming months: Stay tuned for lots of announcements as vendors jostle for position. This extreme activity is being driven by several factors.

In addition to the obvious high growth in data storage, HDS' Mikkelsen sees convergence as key.

"The disk array market is converging into a single entity," he says. "Enterprise and modular used to be defined as Fortune 1000 and midrange, respectively. Now each group will have a mixture of both classes of storage to match their application-specific needs and help them efficiently manage their storage resources."

Meanwhile, continued downward pressure on prices is making storage more attractive for a wider range of customers.

"The entry-level array market, specifically segments with storage systems priced below $15,000 is expected to see large growth in the coming years," says Sun's Holmgren. "Regulatory compliance, Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA, and other business demands are driving storage and data retention requirements exponentially, while IT budgets are constrained."

This article was originally published on Monday Oct 17th 2005
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