Where now for storage? Hitachi, IBM and Pure Storage

Part II: Storage supplier strategy in the cloud era: Hitachi, IBM and Pure Storage. We snapshot the big six hardware makers, as they take things to the cloud and as-a-service models

In this second article of two, we look at Hitachi, IBM and Pure Storage.

The cloud and consumption models of procurement are incredibly important for these three, too. But with interests in industry way beyond IT (Hitachi) and a vast services – and mainframe – infrastructure (IBM), two of these three throw a different profile from the other giants we looked at previously, Dell EMC and HPE.

Meanwhile, Pure is a pure storage player, and like NetApp, makes a play towards containers but also secondary storage use cases.

Hitachi

After Hitachi’s ditching of the Data Systems part of its branding and adoption of the Vantara suffix, it seemed to veer away from a big storage focus.

Hitachi is a large organisation with business way beyond just IT, and the move seemed to represent it scaling back on enterprises to concentrate on specialised storage systems for large industrial users – but last year it went some way to coming back towards the datacentre again.

In April, the supplier expanded its flagship Virtual Storage Platform (VSP) with the E990 midmarket array, an NVMe-equipped enterprise version of a storage system that Hitachi Vantara has sold mostly to heavy industry in recent years. It scales to 1.4 PB in 13U of rack space.

In December, it expanded the line-up further with 2U E590 and E790 models. The new Hitachi storage arrays each scale to 360 TB of raw NVMe flash. The supplier also added a Hitachi HNAS 5000 file appliance with hardware-enabled data reduction, and previewed Hitachi Virtual Storage as a Service consumption pricing.

An update in June to the flagship Hitachi Storage Virtualization Operating System (SVOS) added support for software-defined storage on commodity servers. SVOS was previously supported by other suppliers’ hardware, but only via the VSP controller.

In July, Hitachi Content Platform G-11 object storage nodes were refreshed with startup WekaIO’s parallel file system.

This year, the company previewed its plans to address the growing use of persistent storage for Kubernetes containers. Like other suppliers, it has a consumption model, EverFlex.

IBM

IBM is another supplier whose reach goes way beyond storage. If not as far into industry as Hitachi, its mainframe business does have some specialised market niches nearly to itself.

That said, it is nevertheless subject to some chill winds in terms of the decline of on-premise storage. Like others, it has its cloud services and a pay-as-you-go equipment model in Storage Utility.

Its storage product offerings this past year have included the new IBM Elastic Storage System (ESS) 5000 data lake, which is capable of up to 55GBps throughput in an eight-disk enclosure node. The product is aimed at data collection and longer-term storage needs.

IBM also built an enhanced version of its IBM Elastic Storage System 3000, which allows access and data movement between IBM Spectrum Scale and object storage, both on-premise and in the cloud.

Meanwhile, IBM is in the midst of rebranding all its storage systems to FlashSystem, with the exception of its mainframe products.

The FS 5200 headlines the new FlashSystem 5000 family, while other FlashSystem additions include the 2U FS 5015 and FS 5035 hybrid arrays that combine SAS SSDs and spinning disk. The 2U FlashSystem models signal the phase-out of IBM Storwize arrays.

Results for the company’s cloud and data platforms bucked the overall downward trend, led by Red Hat’s offerings, most notably OpenShift and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL).

Pure Storage

Pure Storage is more-or-less a storage pure play, like NetApp, and so has a sharp focus on the longevity of its market.

It has pay-as-you-go in the cloud with Pure as a service and on-premise via its consumption model, Evergreen.

It’s also very much focussed on providing customers with the ability to work between datacentre and the cloud.

Applications-wise, it is focussed on general IT concerns that include high-performance primary workloads, including via virtualisation and containers, as well as analytics and secondary storage use cases such as data protection.

Its Pure Storage Cloud Data Services aim to give customers an on-ramp to hybrid- and multi-cloud. It includes Cloud Block Store, which offers Pure Storage capacity in the cloud (AWS and Azure), and; Purity CloudSnap for AWS, which is a suite of cloud replication services built into Pure’s FlashArray hardware.

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On the containers front, Pure made a significant play by buying container persistent storage and data protection supplier Portworx for $370m in 2020.

Last year, it also teamed up with backup product maker Cohesity to offer bundled flash with backup that aims at rapid recovery, particularly with organisations that want to recover from ransomware attacks.

On the hardware front, it has FlashArray//X for primary storage and high-performance workloads.

Late in 2020, the company upgraded its capacity-focussed FlashArrayC// to make use of higher-capacity quad-level cell (QLC) flash drives.

With its FlashBlade product range Pure is aiming at pioneering high performance file and object storage for the likes of high performance computing and AI as well as data protection with the capability to restore quickly from flash media.

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