Hitachi Data Systems has launched a new SMS 100 array that, the company claims, needs no on-site service. HDS also said that the product would run for up to five years with plug-in replacement disk drives for failed drives.

The Simple Modular Storage System 100 scales from under 1TB to under 9TB and uses 500GB Serial ATA (SATA) drives. It is intended for use by small and medium enterprises and branch offices of larger organisations. HDS says it has fused together its consumer electronics ease-of-use and simplicity with its professional storage expertise to develop the SMS 100. The system can, HDS says, be unpacked and installed in minutes, and then runs for up to five years.

HDS thinks five years is an average working life for such products and it is an indicative life, not a fixed one.

The SMS 100 plugs into a standard three-pin socket and doesn't need a datacentre-class power supply. It is installed by customers using a wizard-based GUI plus an included auto-configuration tool. HDS asserts that no technical training whatsoever is needed to install, use and manage it, the product being designed to work well with Windows and Symantec Backup Exec.

The SMS 100 can have four disks for customer data plus two for RAID 6 protection. The disks can be 140GB or 300GB serial-attached SCSI (SAS), or 500GB or 750GB serial ATA (SATA) format. Capacity scales from 584GB to 3TB of customer-usable storage.

Mike Walkey, an HDS SVP, said: "Hitachi and its channel partners around the world are breaking new ground today by answering the demand for high-performance and highly reliable storage systems that are simple to use and are virtually 'service-less."

If a disk drive fails then HDS is alerted automatically and ships a replacement drive. The customer inserts this into a 'plug and play' slot and the array software uses it automatically. There is no need to remove the failed drive. HDS describes this as 'non-stop' availability.

There are two such slots. If a third drive fails then HDS ships a complete replacement unit to the customer. A cable is used to link the old and new boxes and data automatically migrated across while the first array is in use. Then the new array is switched on, the data on the old one deleted and it then gets shipped back to HDS. There is no additional service charge for this; it being included in the product purchase price.

If customers upgrade to a higher capacity SMS 100 box then auto-migration software copies all the existing data and licences to the new system, again non-disruptively. It is not possible to upgrade capacity within an SMS 100 unit.

The SMS 100 software includes a snapshot feature for data protection. Full copies of data can also be taken and stored inside the machine. An optional remote replication feature can send the data over a network link to a remote system for disaster recovery. The replication is asynchronous and, if the network is down for a period, it stores data changes until the network comes back up.

The new product competes with NetApp StoreVault products, also Dell, IBM and HP's All-in-One SME-class storage products.

None of these products can de described as virtually service-less or have the failed drive replacement features of the SMS 100.

Why did HDS decide to add such new features compared to competing products? Bob Plumridge, HDS' EMEA product management director, said that the SME storage market was pretty crowded: "If we're going to enter it we've got to do it properly and make people want to buy from us."

The SMS 100 is HDS' first SME-level array and fits below the WMS 100 in HDS' product line-up. It is priced from $5,000 or around £2,500; HDS using standard conversion rates. This buys the minimum configuration of one controller, six 148GB SAS drives with two set aside for RAID 6 work providing 584GB of usable capacity. The product is available now.