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April 3, 2005

Hitachi learns to spell NAS

Hitachi's subsidiary HDS has at last moved fully into the very fast growing NAS market by launching NAS blades for its flagship Lighting Tagmastore USP array, and promising more midrange NAS later this year.

By CBR Staff Writer

Until now Hitachi’s NAS products have been limited to a NAS blade sold only in Japan, and a reselling deal with NAS king Network Appliance. The new blades do not involve NetApp technology, but the reselling deal with NetApp continues.

The stridency of Hitachi’s announcement hinted at the probable embarrassment it feels about making its NAS move so late. The market needs to be aware: Hitachi is coming at the NAS market strong and hard, said HDS’ CEO Shinjiro Iwata.

HDS denies it, but according to one source it has sold very little NetApp NAS. HDS badly needed to ship its own NAS, much more than anybody else in the industry, said Arun Taneja, analyst at the Taneja Foundation.

NAS market growth has been far outstripping growth in revenue for conventional block-level disk arrays, and IDC is predicting 15% CAGR to 2008 for NAS revenue.

But unlike rivals such as EMC or Hewlett-Packard, HDS has not enjoyed any of those NAS dollars. Worse still, its lack of own-brand NAS will have closed it out of some customers. HDS attempted to explain why it waited so long to plug the gap.

The NAS market has been growing from the ‘S’ end of the SMB upwards, and we’ve traditionally played at the high end of the market. Now that NAS is moving up, we’re moving into it, said Claus Mikkelsen, senior director of storage applications, Hitachi Data Systems.

Hitachi claimed that the TagmaStore NAS blades, supporting both CIFS and NFS, will sell for a third of the cost of comparable EMC or NetApp NAS gear. The blades will be sold in failover pairs, and will scale to 4 pairs handling up to 2PB of data.

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One reason why the deal with NetApp might have resulted in few sales is channel conflict. But Hitachi insisted that it has resold multiple PB of disk capacity front-ended by NetApp gateways.

As for channel conflict, Mikkelsen said: When you go into an arrangement like this, you know you have to work out the details. We’ve done this before with [OEM partners] HP and Sun.

The NetApp deal has opened some customer doors, Mikkelsen said, including a brand new Hitachi storage customers, and has made Hitachi’s sales force familiar with NAS.

The NAS blade sold only in Japan lacked functionality needed for a major NAS push, said Mikkelsen. Hitachi in the past outside of Japan resold NAS made by NFS, but those sales were definitely very limited.

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