NEC brings new Grid Storage Architecture to Market

NEC Corporation of America unveiled its HYDRAstor platform, dramatically altering the storage landscape with a simple and cost-effective new grid storage architecture that completely changes the way companies approach storage by enabling them to manage information, not just infrastructure. This next-generation grid storage architecture not only delivers near limitless scale-out capabilities, enhanced resiliency and continuous availability, but also provides policy-driven, integrated data management services.

“Today’s storage complexities have prevented IT from managing storage as a service and moving the ‘business of business’ forward,” said Karen Dutch, general manager, Advanced Storage Products, NEC Corporation of America. “Built with end user input along the way, the HYDRAstor architecture directly addresses these challenges. With HYDRAstor, businesses have a strategic storage platform that enables IT to quickly meet increasingly strict SLA and business policies on information storage, protection and control.”

HYDRAstor addresses the shortcomings of today’s SAN and NAS systems through its “community of smart nodes” comprised of self-aware, self-healing industry-standard servers with no single point of failure and no central resource bottleneck. HYDRAstor greatly enhances the flexibility of the storage environment while also reducing infrastructure complexity and management overhead.

“Because of the complexity in today's storage environments, IT professionals are too often focused on the management of infrastructure rather than information,” said Robert Gray, senior analyst, IDC. “Today's solution, with compounded growth, becomes tomorrow's problem, and a new approach to simplification is required. NEC’s HYDRAstor architecture provides the next-generation simplicity of grid storage coupled with integrated data management services to save both time and money. The HYDRAstor 'community of smart nodes' has been designed from the ground-up to make it easy for IT to manage storage growth and focus on their true priority of becoming a business partner.”

Changing the Rules of Traditional Storage

HYDRAstor is the first grid storage architecture introduced by a Global 200 technology company and is the most robust and comprehensive of any available today. Its smart nodes operate as one easy-to-manage pool cooperating to provide a set of integrated data management services driven by user-configurable policies which automate and simplify the storage, protection, retention, and expiration of business data.

The HYDRAstor grid is composed of nodes running NEC’s DynamicStor™ intelligent management software to provide a full suite of data management capabilities and services. HYDRAstor nodes leverage NEC’s state of the art server technologies and will be delivered by NEC as a turn key solution for ease of implementation and support for its customers. HYDRAstor’s key advantages include:

Near limitless scalability: The unique HYDRAstor architecture enables both performance and disk capacity to be scaled independently to meet customer requirements. By architecting Accelerator Nodes for performance and Storage Nodes for capacity, HYDRAstor replaces today’s painful “fork-lift upgrade” process with one logical pool to reduce siloed capacity.

No planned downtime: Nodes can be added, removed, and upgraded non-disruptively. Furthermore, nodes can be heterogeneous with different capacity and performance capabilities to allow IT to seamlessly ride the technology curve for maximum investment protection.

Automated data migration: Nodes slated for removal or upgrade replacement can be quiesced to prevent new data from being stored there while existing data is then non-disruptively moved to other nodes, all without impacting application performance or availability.

Effortless management: HYDRAstor provides a self-managed, self-tuning and self-healing system with one management dashboard to reduce complexity and administrator costs. Manual tasks such as provisioning and reserving capacity are not required. As nodes are added, capacity is discovered and utilized automatically, and existing stored data is automatically load balanced to optimize performance and maximize data resiliency.

Efficient storage: Through its patent-pending DataRedux™ technology, which eliminates data duplication across and within incoming data streams, HYDRAstor significantly reduces storage requirements. Without the performance degradation commonly seen in today’s compression and data de-duplication technologies, HYDRAstor reduces storage capacity needs up to 75 percent without taking a performance hit.

Enhanced resiliency: HYDRAstor provides complete user flexibility for data resiliency through its patent-pending Distributed Resilient Data™ (DRD) technology with customizable resiliency levels allowed for different data types. HYDRAstor’s default resiliency level of three protects against three disk or node failures and delivers 300 percent more data resiliency than RAID-5 with a similar storage capacity overhead – but with no performance degradation during a data re-build operation.

“Each advance in technology brings new challenges that often require a whole new way of thinking, and this is what HYDRAstor's architecture represents,” said Jim Addlesberger, president and CEO of NavigateStorage, a data protection solutions provider. “As NEC’s first channel partner with customers in the HYDRAstor beta program, NavigateStorage believes that HYDRAstor's grid architecture and de-duplication technology will enable our customers to affordably and non-disruptively scale-out performance and capacity to meet their business needs without increasing management costs.”

HYDRAstor’s community architecture enables IT to significantly reduce the cost and complexity of site-level data protection services. By geographically distributing the nodes and dialing in the appropriate resiliency level with DRD technology, data on a HYDRAstor system can survive the loss of an entire site. This new survival paradigm enables IT to transition from today’s complex and costly disaster recovery model to a simple and efficient disaster resiliency mode where the community continues and data survives. This approach eliminates complex processes, a multiplicity of point products, and high costs associated with the storage overhead required by traditional disaster recovery models.

Making Grid Storage a Reality

Targeted towards mid- to very large-size data centers with large and growing storage infrastructures, this next-generation storage architecture and its patent-pending technologies have been developed over the last four years by NEC Laboratories America’s Princeton facility. Affiliated with leading universities, research at NEC Laboratories America sets the pace in combining the best from the research world validated with the real-world needs of enterprise storage administrators.

HYDRAstor products will be made available in a phased approach. The initial grid storage platform will focus on unified secondary storage that is highly efficient, easy to manage and always available. The platform will provide predictable, reliable and timely disk-based data protection followed by archiving support. Customer investment in HYDRAstor’s initial deployment will be extended and enhanced seamlessly as additional HYDRAstor capabilities, application support and services are delivered, minimizing the total cost of ownership. Initial storage solutions based on the HYDRAstor architecture will be available in 2H 2007.

Meeting the Market Demand

End users in today’s market are demanding new and innovative solutions for distributed storage.

“During the last four years the systems, infrastructure and network at Anderson Center for Autism have grown more than fivefold,” said Gregg Paulk, ACA’s first Information Technologies Manager. “Our next objective is to automate all consumer records, integrate all department recordkeeping and convert all warehoused paper records dating back to our inception in 1924 to electronic format. Our storage needs are exploding.”

“After attending the weeklong SNW conference in Orlando this past November, I recognized the great potential that the HYDRAstor grid storage architecture offered with its limitless scalability, resiliency and ease of management. At ACA, we are very excited to participate in the beta program to help ensure the equipment will perform as needed.”

Like many enterprise customers, Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation faces an enormous challenge to economically consolidate its vital but dispersed data in today's regulated health care environment. "Our participation in the HYDRAstor beta program is in direct response to our CIO's mandate to manage storage from a long term, strategic perspective," said Terry Hale, director of information systems at Baptist's headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee.

"After investing in transitional technologies such as VTL, hoping to end our tape nightmare, we view HYDRAstor's unified backup and archive platform as the means to finally eliminate tape once and for all -- if it delivers on the promise of its roadmap. HYDRAstor's grid-based storage and ‘user-dialable’ data resiliency combined with its exclusive DataRedux de-duplication technology enables a brand new data survivability paradigm without incurring the high bandwidth cost of today's disaster recovery models. We look forward to reporting on our experience after our testing is complete and are eager to adopt HYDRAstor if it meets our needs as we anticipate."

Other end users are focused on management, efficiency and cost. “Because we have so much data distributed across multiple locations, backup is a significant undertaking,” said Michael Thomas, storage architect, Federal Reserve System. “With the unique nature of our business, we face tremendous pressure to complete backups within our backup window while confronting compounded rates of data growth, yet we cannot keep hiring more people to manage our increasingly complex environment. A grid storage solution that is massively scaleable, easy to manage and cost effective is just what we need.”