HDS has fired a new salvo in its war with EMC. It has announced the TagmaStore Universal Storage Platform (USP) which includes a virtualising storage controller capable of managing both HDS and non-HDS arrays. This is the latest move in its plan to shift emphasis towards software.

As predicted earlier, the announcement also included new high-end storage array hardware more powerful than existing Lightning models - which will remain on sale - and the USP will also be sold by HP and Sun, both of whom are existing HDS partners.

The range can scale to 1,152 drives and 332TB internally, or double the capacity of rivals. However, the virtualising controller can also manage up to 32PB of external storage from a variety of vendors, with Hitachi's HiCommand management software aggregating this into storage pools and creating private virtual storage machines that appear as separate storage subsystems.

"The most important thing about TagmaStore is it's open," says John Hickman, storage business solutions manager for HDS EMEA. "You can also attach other storage at the back end and manage it as if it were internal to the USP." That means a USP could be bought to manage and consolidate existing non-HDS storage, the company says.

"We have tried to be an open software company for years, following SNIA standards and so on," Hickman adds. "We hope companies will see our software as better, and beneath that we also hope they'll see our hardware as better and buy it too."

Storage virtualisation and heterogenous management are nothing new though - they are already available in software from from the likes of DataCore and Softek, and IBM recently introduced its own version of the technology: SAN Volume Controller.

"HDS has nothing on the software side that's not available from other companies - I can't see anything they can claim leadership on," says EMC's southern Europe marketing director Malte Rademacher. "This is something they had to do because they were losing ground.

"On the hardware side they're trying to get where we were in 2003, and they're going against the market, because the market is going for flexibility and modularity. They still have a high entrance cost too, so it's not dissimilar from our high end arrays."

The big advantage for HDS is the performance and scalability of its USP controller hardware, argues Hickman. This can be upgraded online and offers 68GB/s of cached bandwidth which he says is more than eight times faster than rivals. It will also be able to replicate across dissimilar HDS and non-HDS hardware, for example copying mainframe data to midrange storage.

He claims that this, plus its ability to provide NAS access as well as Fibre Channel, FICON and ESCON, should make USP the ideal hub for storage consolidation and simplifying storage management.