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Hitachi Aligns With Microsoft To Build Virtual Appliance

Hitachi Data Systems plans to deliver an appliance that integrates its storage array platform, blade servers, Fiber Channel and Ethernet networking, bundled with Microsoft's System Center Manager Operations Manager and its own orchestration software.

The two companies announced a partnership at the Microsoft Management Summit that kicked off in Las Vegas today. Hitachi said it plans to deliver early next year what it calls a unified compute platform that is suited for both enterprise data centers and hosted cloud providers.

It should appeal to mid- and large-sized enterprise looking to add higher levels of performance and management automation to applications such as e-mail systems and databases, according to the company.

"What used to be very disparate and siloed, is moving toward standardized templated solutions that are highly automated and integrated and, in our view, is heading toward where infrastructure becomes invisible," said Miki Sandorfi, chief strategist, file and content services. "So it becomes a liquid-manageable pool of resources that can be called into action at any time to serve business needs."

Hitachi is not releasing details until later this year on what components it is using verses those provided by partners, but it will be based on industry-standard hardware running Windows Server or Linux. It will also include blades that are tied together with what Hitachi calls scale units.

"These scale unit servers are networked together with the storage with that infrastructure and are coordinated with the orchestration layer, and, of course, externally there are networks that tie into the service for application workloads," Sandorfi said.

"Our first release will allow us to physically manage the server assets that are part of the scale unit (part of that appliance). We can also land virtual machines on any outboard server with the orchestration layer but we won't physically mange those servers as part of the orchestration at this time."

Hitachi’s storage virtualization software will work with hypervisors from both Microsoft and VMware, according to Sandorfi. "We’re tying the low-level capabilities of our storage arrays that can provide things like snapshots, copy on write, rapid deployment and this will enable us to, in a zero copy mode, deploy servers immediately through this orchestration layer," he said.

Sandorfi said Hitachi has not decided on pricing but it will be made available in small, medium and large configurations. It will be offered thought Hitachi’s channel partners -- Sandorfi said it was still being determined if and when it would  be offered through any of Microsoft’s channels.

While Hitachi is well regarded for its storage technology it is not known for offering server infrastructure, though it’s BladeSymphony line of blade servers are well-regarded in Japan, said Mark Bowker, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group.

"It’s an emerging area for them. I wouldn’t say their footprint is anywhere near what it is in storage," Bowker said. However, he pointed out that Cisco is also a newcomer to the server market and there are a number of other alliances that seek to deliver integrated storage and server solutions involving the likes or EMC, NetApp, VMware and others.

"There’s been this rallying around virtualization in the data center," Bowker said  "The reality is we are probably just at the beginning. Most companies we see virtualize 20 to 30 percent of their apps. They are now stuck in neutral looking at the next phase of applications that need to be virtualized."

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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