NEC takes Hydrastor grid storage system higher

With the market for scale-out storage systems heating up, NEC comes out with a second-generation offering of its Hydrastor grid storage system. The new entry-level configuration of one accelerator node and two storage nodes beats the performance and capacity of what NEC previously offered in a configuration of two accelerators and four storage nodes.

NEC Corp. of America has refreshed its Hydrastor grid storage system with new hardware that boosts the performance and density over its first-generation storage nodes.

Each of NEC's new Hydrastor HS8-2000 storage nodes holds a dozen 1 TB SATA disks in the same 2U form factor that was used by the first-generation HS8-1000 to hold six hard drives for a 7.5 TB raw capacity. Estimating a 20:1 data deduplication ratio, NEC places the "effective" capacity at 157.5 TB per node for the HS8-2000.

In addition, a move from dual-core to 3 GHz quad-core Xeon processors, as well as algorithmic improvements in NEC's DynamicStor software, boost the accelerator nodes' capacity to 300 MBps, up from 100 MBps per node previously.

This means that the new Hydrastor's entry-level configuration of one accelerator node and two storage nodes beats the performance and capacity of what it previously offered in a configuration of two accelerators and four storage nodes. The previous entry-level configuration -- the HS8-1010 -- held 10 TB physical capacity with 200 MB/sec performance, according to NEC. The new HS8-2002S entry-level configuration offers 315 TB with 300 MB/sec performance.

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In addition to data deduplication, Hydrastor's software allows users to "dial up" or "dial down" parity protection among the disks in the Hydrastor grid. This allows the system to tolerate more drive failures than RAID 5 or RAID 6 systems, and customers can customize its data protection and redundancy levels. The product scales to an 11-rack configuration and multiple petabytes.

Gideon Senderov, director of technical marketing for NEC's Advanced Storage division, said the new entry-level configuration "puts this product within reach for smaller environments" and draws 67% less power, at 3.8W per terabyte of storage. The $180,000 price for that entry-level configuration is hefty for a small business, but Senderov pointed out that the price includes switches, servers, disks and software.

Still, smaller storage shops might find the previous model's price more palatable. Early Hydrastor adopter Gregg Paulk, director of IT for the Anderson Center for Autism in Staatsburg, NY, said the school gets a 39:1 data reduction ratio resulting in 2.8 TB on his HS8-1010, but "even that entry-level configuration is a little bit overkill for us," he said. "The smaller configuration should be more economical."

Because the new nodes are backward-compatible with the previous ones, customers can cluster HS8-1000 and HS8-2000 nodes in the same grid. And while NEC offers HS8-2000 systems in preset configurations tweaked more for backup or archiving, organizations can add storage or accelerator nodes independently to bump up capacity or performance. Storage nodes cost $70,000 and acceleration nodes $50,000.

Scale-out storage systems
"Scale-out" is the storage buzzword of the moment, but many new systems from big storage players, like EMC and Hewlett-Packard, have yet to become generally available. But while scale-out storage systems remain a nascent market, Taneja Group founder and principal analyst Arun Taneja said that's about to change, and expects NEC to have fierce competition for scale-out secondary storage by year-end.

But while the large vendors' scale-out systems remain in development, NEC has been on the market with a system that has added software features, Taneja said. "It's not just scale-out hardware – they're also contending with scale by shortening rebuild times through flexible parity and making nodes denser with data deduplication."

Analysts like Taneja are also questioning whether data deduplication alone can help organizations keep up with data growth. He said that cheaper, denser systems that are easily scalable will be required to keep up, noting, "The only place I can see a single-node product scenario having value is at the lower end of the market."

 

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