Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) is investing in BlueArc and OEMing product from it. The company, needing a new network-attached storage product, is OEM'ing it from BlueArc and calling it the Hitachi High-performance NAS Platform. HDS is also investing an unknown amount in BlueArc as well as signing this five-year OEM deal.

Coincidentally - and making BlueArc's day - BlueArc has won a legal fight against NetApp, a leading NAS product supplier and HDS competitor, in which NetApp accused it of patent infringement. This legal case dismissal may have cleared the way for the HDS OEM deal.

HDS currently sells a NAS gateway product. For this to work you have to buy the SAN (storage area network) drive arrays behind it. With a native NAS product you don't, so it's simpler to buy and operate. HDS competitors IBM, EMC and NetApp all have real NAS boxes in their product lines and not just NAS gateways.

In the high performance computing (HPC) market customers need the very fast delivery of lots of big files. This need is quite separate from the SAN market where mostly transaction block-level data travels across a SAN fabric.

HPC customers need a great big single logical storage pool so they don't have to break up large data sets. These datasets will grow and they need file virtualisation capabilities to cope with this. EMC has Rainfinity product and NetApp has Data ONTAP GX to do these things. HDS had nothing similar - until now.

Through BlueArc HDS can offer customers information sharing among workers via fast, secure access to an up to 512TB central pool of files and databases that can scale up to 4 million files per directory. This also has a cluster name space for both CIFS and NFS, concurrently, giving sysadms a single mount point for users anywhere in the connected network of servers and workstations.

BlueArc customers like Lord Of The Rings special effects company Weta Digital are already taking advantage of this.

IDC group VP and GM, John McArthur, had this in mind when he said: "Certain applications within high-performance computing, entertainment, and life sciences, have unique characteristics requiring uniquely-optimised solutions. BlueArc has been addressing those requirements with the Titan product line."

HPC customers ubnderstand and have not been using HDS' NAS products. Here's John Mansfield, an HDS product management VP: "There is tremendous opportunity for the Hitachi High-performance NAS Platform with our installed base. Our customers have been anxious for us do for their file storage systems what we have successfully done for their block storage systems with our Universal Storage Platform. We can now help them consolidate and virtualise a tiered storage block AND file-based environment," which HDS couldn't do before.

BlueArc president and CEO Mike Gustafson, naturally loves the match of HDS block storage with BlueArc file-based products: "BlueArc's leading file-based virtualisation technology is a perfect complement to Hitachi's industry-leading block-based virtualization solutions."

The legal case

Tthe United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has affirmed a lower court's decision to dismiss the patent infringement lawsuit filed against NDS by NetApp. The case started in August 2003, when NetApp filed a patent infringement case against BlueArc derived from NetApp's July 2003 acquisition of Auspex' patent portfolio, following the Auspex bankruptcy.

BlueArc's hardware architecture was found by the court not to have infringed any valid claim of the asserted patents.

BlueArc's Gustafson tried not to crow too much about seeing off NetApp: "Despite these legal attacks by a key competitor, BlueArc has continued to achieve impressive customer, revenue and market share growth in the past three years and our Titan 2000 network storage system continues to deliver real-world benefits far beyond anything else on the market." Ho, ho, ho, and a Happy Christmas to NetApp.

There's no doubt about it; BlueArc's Titan 2000 is a hot box and BlueArc has just become an even hotter company.