Hitachi Data Systems has created three new families of converged appliances, which integrate its server and storage technologies to handle specific datacentre tasks.
Each family of appliances serves a specific purpose: one deals with virtualisation, another with specific applications — such as Microsoft Exchange 2010 — and the last with centralised server management and orchestration.
The first two hardware and software packages are availabe to order immediately, while the third is expected to arrive by the end of 2011, Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) said in its announcement on Tuesday.
The new appliances aim to make it easier for businesses to predict their costs and management load, compared with distributed storage and servers, Francois Zimmermann, HDS's UK chief technology officer, told ZDNet UK.
"What people want is to move to a cost-per-unit of work type of thing, so they can do chargeback. If they roll their own [stack], they can't do that," Zimmermann said. "If they roll out a converged Exchange 2010 stack, it's easy to work out a cost-per-user. There's some additional value in the fact that because it's pre-integrated, we have the support stack running in our labs as well."
The two product packages for pre-order now are an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) private cloud and an Exchange 2010-specific mail appliance. The IaaS package has been built on the Microsoft Hyper-V Cloud Fast Track initiative, and so is pre-validated for applications virtualised on Microsoft's hypervisor. The Hitachi Converged Platform for Microsoft Exchange 2010 is the first in a series of application-specific appliances and can support multiples of 8,000 exchange mailboxes.
These same platforms can be orchestrated by UCP, and therefore permit stepping into the cloud at your own pace.– Miki Sandorfi, HDS
The Unified Compute Platform (UCP) appliances for general-purpose management, orchestration and server automation will follow by the end of the year. The UCPs marry HDS's BladeSymphony blade servers with its AMS or VSP storage and management software and also build in integrated networking hardware from Brocade or Cisco. The UCPs were first announced in April 2010.
"We recognise that many IT environments may not be quite ready for cloud deployment — hence, converged platforms announced today... focus on particular business needs," Miki Sandorfi, HDS's chief strategist for file and content services, wrote in a blog post on Tuesday. "However, these same platforms can be orchestrated by UCP, and therefore permit stepping into the cloud at your own pace."
Stepping up against HP and EMC
Converged strategies are being pursued by the majority of top-tier IT vendors. Dominant enterprise storage vendor EMC has teamed up with networking giant Cisco and virtualisation specialist VMware through the Virtual Computing Environment (VCE) coalition to offer similar pre-integrated IT stacks, known as vBlocks. HP is going down the same avenue with its converged infrastructure strategy, but is using its own hardware and software rather than kit from outside vendors.
HDS feels it has an advantage over EMC, as it already manufactures servers and storage, and it does heavy pre-integration on the Brocade elements of the networking systems, Zimmermann said.
As for HP, its software management needs to be more tightly focused, Zimmermann argued. "If you look at the components in their stack, because they've been sourced from a lot of acquisitions [such as 3Par for storage] — the management isn't seamless," he said. "They might be able to brand something as the same thing, but in reality the small, medium and large components will have very different management styles."
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