HDS service puts storage cloud in your data center

Hitachi Data Systems installs and remotely manages storage in a customer's own data center, charging per byte and per month

Hitachi Data Systems is preparing to offer cloud storage that even cloud-averse enterprises might accept: It resides in the customer's own data center.

The Hitachi Cloud Service for Private File Tiering, set to be introduced Tuesday, will let customers pay per terabyte, without buying any equipment, while keeping their data local. Instead of asking enterprises to send their information to a service provider's data center, Hitachi will merely set up its own storage arrays inside the corporate firewall. Hitachi engineers will set up the boxes, then manage them remotely via a virtual private network, and eventually add more if necessary, said Miki Sandorfi, chief strategist of file and content services.

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Hitachi is only the latest vendor to launch a cloud storage service. Its offering is based on the Hitachi Content Platform it announced last October, which can scale up to 40 petabytes of capacity and automatically move data to the most appropriate tier of storage. The on-site character of the arrangement sets it apart from competitors, Sandorfi said. It is the first offering in a planned Hitachi Cloud Services suite.

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One advantage of this approach is that the customer can reach its own data over local network connections that either are in place already or can be built by the enterprise itself. That means there are no charges for sending and receiving data over a wide-area network, Sandorfi said.

Customers will pay entirely on a monthly basis, with no upfront charges. They will pay per terabyte of data stored but will have to commit to storing at least a certain amount of data over the course of a contract, Sandorfi said. That way, the enterprise will be able to migrate to the system at their own pace, he said.

However, the customer will have to provide the floor space and the energy for the storage systems Hitachi sets up. Enterprises commonly cite a shortage of these resources as a pain point.

Hitachi may have found a way to get large enterprises, which typically are risk-averse, to make a move toward cloud storage, said Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Terri McClure.

"Enterprises are really shy about adopting cloud storage, because of availability and security concerns," McClure said. Worries about network latency and the cost and complexity of maintaining wide-area links to third-party data centers are also hurdles, she added. "One of the best ways to mitigate those concerns is not to even have it off site," she said.

Enterprises are beginning to adopt virtualization and cloud services for computing in order to cut costs and improve efficiency. Storage infrastructure tends to change more slowly because the data within an organization is a prized asset, but business managers eventually will start to demand greater efficiency from that department, McClure believes. Storage typically involves making big capital expenditures on equipment that then sits on the floor waiting to be filled. Just planning, purchasing and installing the systems typically involves lag time of six to eight months, she said.

Among large storage vendors, EMC hasn't offered anything quite like the Hitachi service, though IBM can configure managed services in a variety of ways through its IBM Global Services division, she said.

The service will be available in the next 60 days, at which time pricing will be disclosed, Hitachi said.

Also on Tuesday, the company is introducing a system that carriers, other service providers and system integrators can use to create storage-as-a-service offerings for consumers and small businesses. They can build products that include content sharing as well as backup, packaged and priced as they please, Sandorfi said.

Hitachi developed the cloud-based system in conjunction with Digi-Data, which sells a services platform for software-as-a-service delivery. Hitachi's customers will have access to metering and billing systems for their storage offerings, as well as to APIs (application programming interfaces) for writing their own applications for serving customers.

Some service providers have already built products based on the new platform, which have yet to be announced, Sandorfi said. He declined to name them.

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