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The VSP replaces the HDS Universal Storage Platform V (USP V) as the vendor's flagship SAN array. The Hitachi Command Suite management suite replaces the Hitachi Storage Command Suite, reflecting greater visibility for virtual servers and applications in the new version.
The VSP builds on the same architecture as the USP family, and continues to use the crossbar internal switching architecture to join controller chassis as one logical switch. There are changes, however, such as the use of Intel processors, support for 2.5-inch 6 Gbps SAS instead of Fibre Channel (FC) drives and the ability to link more switches for greater scalability. The VSP supports 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch drives and SAS and SATA in the same disk shelf.
The SVP scales to more than twice the capacity of the USP while requiring less footprint because of its greater density and use of 2.5-inch drives. The VSP's crossbar architecture can scale to eight virtual storage director (VSD) blades, each with its own front end directors connected to servers, back end directors connected to disk, and global cache.
"It's not a radically new architecture," HDS CTO Claus Mikkelsen said. "It's the same switch we've had for years, and we're building on it. We've offloaded some of the processing to Intel processors."
A starting configuration for a diskless controller has eight processor cores, 16 Fibre Channel host ports and 64 GB of global cache in a rackmount design. VSP systems scale to 32 processor cores, 192 FC host ports, 1,024 GB of global cache, and either 2,048 2.5-inch 6 GBps SAS or 1,280 3.5-inch SATA drives. The systems also hold 260 solid state drives (SSDs) with SAS interfaces. The VSP can have 192 FICON ports for mainframe connectivity or 96 FCoE ports instead of FC host ports.
As with the USP, VSP controllers can virtualize storage from other HDS systems as well as from EMC Corp., Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co., IBM, Sun Microsystems and other vendors. Customers can integrate the Hitachi NAS (manufactured by BlueArc Corp.) and Hitachi Content Platform with the VSP.
HDS also becomes the latest storage vendor to add sub-LUN tiering. Hitachi's Dynamic Tiering monitors data access, keeping frequently accessed data on higher tiers while moving other data to lower tiered storage. Administrators can also set policies to move data based on other characteristics. HDS also simplified its storage provisioning – now administrators enter the host, volume size and number of volumes in a GUI to provision LUNs. VSP also lets customers span one LUN across storage tiers
"We've turned a LUN into a logical concept," Mikkelson said. "All of that activity that relates to the physicality of a LUN has gone away. You can provision a LUN by supplying three pieces of information. You say what host, how much in terms of gigabytes and number of volumes."
HDS did not include block-based deduplication or compression in the VSP.
HDS customer eyes automated tiering, reduced power/cooling
Jim Livingston, Director of IT infrastructure and operations at the University of Utah Health Care, said he's been using HDS storage for about seven years without downtime. He intends to migrate about 750 TB of storage on two USP-V systems to two VSPs. He said the main advantages he sees for the VSP are the dynamic tiering, smaller footprint, improved provisioning and the consolidation of management inside Command Suite.
"Being able to bring together SSD, SATA and SAS drives into a single pool takes tiering to a new level," he said. "[With USP] you can't mix different drives into a single pool. We have three tiers of storage now but basically we segregate by class of array. It will be nice to pool together all our drive types into one pool."
Livingston said the VSP will be about a 60% reduction in power and cooling over his current systems. "That sounds trivial, but it's a big deal for us," he said. "It will fit into a standard rack instead of requiring its own cabinet, which occupies more space than we want it to."
Analysts like 2.5-inch SAS, Intel architecture
Analysts give HDS high marks for becoming the first vendor to embrace 2.5-inch SAS in an enterprise system, as well as for its tiering and use of standard components to lower the cost although other vendors have already gone in those directions. Hitachi's tiering trails Compellent's Data Progression, EMC's FAST, IBM's Easy Tier, and 3PAR's Adaptive Optimization applications to market.
"It's a wave going across the market now," Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Mark Peters said of automated tiering. "There's a lot of support in the market now for making everything more efficient and economic. It will also make solid state more viable. Until you have the automated tool to move things around, SSDs won't catch on."
Peters said Hitachi's move to simplify tiering, pooling and provisioning should help drive adoption of those features.
"All vendors will leapfrog each other on scale," Peters said. "What Hitachi has going for it is overall management and the ability to create a single pool of storage. The [Command Suite] management tool looks significantly better than it used to be. If you can reduce management, you make things easier to employ, and that reduces the cost of management. Users don't use all the features they have – if you find something remotely difficult to employ, you won't do it."
Wikibon analyst David Floyer said "the things that jump out at you" with the VSP are 2.5-inch SAS and automatic tiering. Floyer said it takes a lot to get high-end enterprise customers to switch vendors because of the time and money invested in their current products, but he said HDS hasn't lost ground to the EMC Symmetrix and IBM DS8700 systems it competes against.
"Will it cause people to throw away their EMC and migrate in droves?" Floyer said. "People usually won't change [high-end storage systems] unless they have to. For Hitachi customers, this makes the road ahead clear."
Gartner research director Stanley Zaffos said HDS changed the data flows, uses different silicon and became the first vendor to support 2.5-inch SAS in high-end enterprise systems with the VSP. He said HDS has traditionally focused on technology without much concern for price, but took steps to lower cost this time around.
"With the VSP, we see Hitachi using cost as a design objective for the first time," he said. "They designed a monolithic storage system that uses lower-cost silicon and packaging, and enabled this system to compete on price."
Floyer agreed that the use of Intel chips was a significant step because of cost.
"Hitachi is getting on a cheaper cost curve, and seems to be using that technology extremely well," he said. "With that technology HDS has made a good switching system using PCI express switching."
VSP pricing starts at $200,000 for a diskless controller.