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WDC strives to become 'next great storage' company

Since its 2012 acquisition of hard disk drive rival HGST, Western Digital Corp. has bought more storage companies than any other vendor.

Some of the deals were whoppers, such as the $19 billion SanDisk acquisition and the $4.8 billion payout for HGST. Those deals helped WDC expand its core hard disk drive business while making it a leader in solid-state drive (SSD) devices.

This week WDC tried to shine the light on the fruits of a few smaller deals. WDC held a press event at its San Jose, Calif., campus to launch new storage systems, including an all-flash array platform acquired from Tegile Systems and object storage software that came from Amplidata. None of the new systems were earth-shattering but they highlighted the fact that WDC is more than a drive vendor. It also sells full storage systems as part of its Data Center Systems division.

“People often frame Western Digital as a legacy hardware company,” said Phil Bullinger, GM of WDC’s data center systems group and the man responsible for changing that perception.

“This company has the opportunity to build the next great storage systems business in the market.  We can do things that others cannot. We’re not a startup company. We have more than 2,200 customers and 3,500 systems deployed.”

In other words, WDC is a sleeping giant in the storage systems world. But what will it take to wake that giant? The storage systems revenue doesn’t make up enough of WDC’s $20 billion annual revenue for the company to disclose. But with adoption of NVMe and cloud – built largely on object storage –  growing in leaps and bounds, Bullinger and other WDC  executives say the vendor has the right technologies to cash in.

The new products include:

  • Four new IntelliFlash N-Series all-NVMe flash arrays. The N5240 and N5280 have 736 GB of memory and four 16-core CPUs per array. The N5240 can scale to 92 TB of NVMe or 553 TB of SAS flash, and the N5280 scales to 184 TB of NVMe or 1.106 PB of SAS flash. The N5840 and N5880 include 1.44 TB of memory and four 20-core CPUs per array. The N5840 scales to 77 TB of NVMe or 553 TB of SAS flash, and the N5880 scales to 154 TB of NVMe or 1.1 PB of SAS flash. IntelliFlash OS 3.9 supports all block and file storage protocols, data reduction, non-disruptive data migration and volume copy to move applications between storage classes, and per volume snapshots and copies. The new IntelliFlash arrays – based on Tegile technology — will be available in the fourth quarter of 2018.
  • ActiveScale 5.3 Object Storage. ActiveScale is the object storage software that powers WDC’s ActiveScale P100 modular and ActiveScale X100 integrated systems. The P100 scales from 864 TB to 5.4 PB and the X100 scales from 1 PB to 63 PB of raw capacity. ActiveScale 5.3 supports a Unified Data Access NFS interface for managing data through a file system format. It also includes hybrid cloud replication – bucket-level replication from an on-premises ActiveScale System to an Amazon Web Services bucket – and Docker container support.
  • UltraStar Serv60+8 Hybrid Storage Server Platform. The Serv60+8 is an extension to WDC’s hybrid storage server platform for designed for archive, backup, media streaming, content repositories, and remote office and private-cloud deployments. It includes dual Intel Skylake processors. The Serv60+8 has 36 dedicated hard disk drive slots and another 24 slots for either HDDs or SAS or SATA SSDs. Another eight slots are reserved for NVMe, SAS or SATA SSDs. The sever starts with 144 TB of capacity.
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