Enterprise IT

DOD data center consolidation driving virtual storage market

As data centers are consolidated as a way to save money and improve network access, vendors that provide much of the plumbing for cloud computing and big data projects are emphasizing that plain vanilla storage technologies are growing in importance.

As requirements grow exponentially, “where it gets a little cloudy is managing the storage” and accessing all that data on virtual and other networks in the cloud, said Mike Tanner, president and CEO of Hitachi Data Systems Federal Corp. (HDS Federal) in Reston, Va. The new, wholly-owned federal subsidiary was established in April 2013 by Hitachi Data Systems Corp., a subsidiary of Hitachi Ltd., and is promoting an array of storage virtualization and cloud approaches to speed initiatives like data center consolidation.

Tanner said in an interview that storage virtualization approaches are one way to “take all that [stored data] and put it in one pool.”

HDS Federal claims its approach, the Virtual Storage Platform, communicates with servers and other devices to speed the migration of legacy data over to larger storage platforms in a matter of “weeks”. Tanner said the fourth generation of the system along with other software management tools boost performance and improve utilization of storage capacity by as much as 50 percent.

Lately, the federal vendor has been promoting a new approach called “Hitachi Content Platform Anywhere” that is intended to provide secure access to cloud storage from any device.

With much of the federal government and the military moving to cloud computing and virtual networks, storage vendors like Hitachi’s new federal unit are bullish about the market. Tanner said massive storage demand both here and abroad are propelling the market. Meanwhile, storage costs are dropping and data storage vendors like Hitachi Federal, NetApp and EMC Corp. are focusing on new approaches to maximize storage capacity and deliver “actionable” data.

Now, they must convince customers such as the Defense Information Systems Agency, service CIOs and their contractors that these emerging virtual storage architectures are secure and that they can help deliver data faster to those who need it when it’s needed.

HDS Federal's partner, Vion Corp., won a five-year, $700 million contract award in 2007 from DISA to supply cloud-based storage along with virtual machine, database web hosting services. In July 2013, DISA quietly postponed the $427 million Enterprise Storage Service deal and plans to re-compete the contract as ESS II sometime after the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, 2013.

Tanner declined to discuss the pending contract award.

According to a 2012 study by GovWin Consulting, the U.S. military remains the largest federal segment of the electronic data storage market. Among the services, the Army accounted for more than one-quarter of the entire federal market, the study found.

Among vendors, NetApp ranked first in fiscal 2011 with more than 41.2 percent of the federal market followed by EMC, Hewlett-Packard, HDS Federal and Dell.

“The mandate for cloud computing and federal data center consolidation will result in more spending going through systems integrators, VARs and cloud providers – decreasing direct purchases by the government,” the GovWin study concluded. “Increased use of UAVs in the intelligence community as well as potential integration of UAVs into the national airspace for uses such as agriculture monitoring and state and local law enforcement will require significant investments in electronic data storage.”

Or as one industry executive put it, government agencies “now realize that data is everything.”

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