Rumble of the Storage Behemoths

Arthur Cole

With EMC World kicking off in Vegas this week, it's no surprise that the other major storage vendors have been talking up their top platforms over the past several days and launching upgrades aimed at boosting capacity, throughput, and a host of other attributes.


But putting aside marketing considerations for a moment, the undeniable truth is that storage is getting bigger, better and faster at an increasingly rapid clip, with many of the top systems reaching into the petabyte range.


Part of this can be chalked up to the growing data demands brought on by virtualization, cloud computing and other data center trends. But it's also clear that the very nature of data has changed, or rather expanded, from simple text and graphics to large-block audio and video.


For EMC's part, the future appears to center around the upcoming Hulk and Maui projects, Hulk being the next major hardware upgrade with Maui as the next-generation of clustering software. The company has been fairly tight-lipped about both of these initiatives, although the grapevine holds that they could both play key roles in systems like the EMC Framework for Digital Media (EFDM).


Meanwhile, firms like Hitachi are ramping up their wares to take on the expanding data market. The company recently added support for both flash technology and 1 TB SATA II hard drives on the Universal Storage Platform V and VM systems, as well as local and remote replication for thin-provisioned volumes in its Dynamic Provisioning software. The company also doubled cache capacity to 512 GB and added support for IPv6 to accommodate large-scale file transfers.


All this came barely a week after IBM expanded its N series portfolio with new virtual tape and switching technologies. The new VE (Virtualization Engine) TS7530, the successor to the TS7520, brings together the FalconStor VTL system with 1 TB SATA drives and is capable of supporting more than 4,000 virtual tapes drives for a total capacity of 1.7 PB, or 3.4 PB using compression software. The new SAN24B-4, 40B-4 and 80B-4 switches support 8 Gbps links in 24-, 40- and 80-port configurations.


And it was only earlier this month that Hewlett-Packard unveiled the StorageWorks 9100 Extreme Data Storage Systems (ExDS9100) that combines up to 820 TB with as many as four blade servers in a single appliance. The company claims its new hardware interface that puts clustering software and applications directly in the server block reduces costs to about $2 per GB.


From the looks of things, this is a trend that's likely to continue well into the future. Data requirements seem to expand at a steady rate regardless of economic conditions, leading to constant demand for increased capacities and the means to locate and retrieve data quickly. It's the sign of a healthy market, but it also means a never-ending game of catch-up.

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