HP readies to revamp storage

Hewlett-Packard on May 16 is expected to revitalize its storage family with the introduction of a slew of products designed to give customers more flexibility in storing data center and remote-office information.

The company says the announcements will constitute its most important storage launch ever and signal that it is ready to erase its mistakes of the past. HP saw its market share slip last year, to put it in the No. 2 position.

HP’s StorageWorks disk storage business accounted for almost $7.6 billion in revenue in 2004, according to IDC. But HP’s storage revenue fell 6.3 per cent from 2003 to 2004.

At its StorageWorks user conference in Las Vegas, HP is expected to roll out:

– Three new models of its midrange Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA) – the EVA40000, 6000 and 8000 external disk storage systems.

– A series of appliances that speed data access and file sharing between remote offices and the data center.

– A clustered gateway product for consolidating file services in remote offices back into the data center.

– A virtual tape library for open systems – Windows, Unix and Linux – environments that lets IT use disk to emulate tape backup.

– A modular tape library for mid-range enterprises.

The launch of the new EVAs, the StorageWorks Enterprise File Services (EFS) and the virtual tape library will make for a much more comprehensive storage portfolio.

The refresh of HP’s EVA products has been much anticipated. It will fill out HP’s family of midsize enterprise storage arrays and offer midsize companies a scalable choice for storage. While HP declined to comment on the new EVAs or any of the other products it will announce, documents downloaded from HP’s Web site detail the capabilities.

“HP is making a comeback in storage,” says Arun Taneja, founder and senior analyst for Taneja Group. “These announcements bring HP a heck of a lot closer to competing with EMC and Network Appliance.”

According to IDC, in 2004 EMC took the No. 1 position away from HP for external disk storage systems. EMC showed a 21.1 per cent revenue share, followed by HP with 18.7 per cent.

The EVA4000 has a maximum capacity of 16.8T bytes; the EVA6000 scales to 33.6T bytes; and the EVA8000 has a maximum capacity of 72T bytes using 240 drives, twice the capacity of HP’s previous StorageWorks EVA5000. The EVA8000 supports connections to as many as 256 servers.

In addition, the EVA8000 is more than twice as fast as the EVA6000. The storage arrays can intermix fast Fibre Channel and less-expensive and lower-cost Fibre Channel drives.

All boxes now support industry-standard multi-path I/O for Windows, Solaris, AIX, NetWare and Linux rather than HP’s proprietary SecurePath technology. Multi-path I/O is the ability to use more than one physical path to access the storage device, providing fault tolerance and load-balancing of storage traffic.

HP’s new product barrage also will focus on hot topics such as clustered file systems, wide-area file services (WAFS) for branch-office consolidation and the acceleration of chatty file services protocols across the WAN. WAFS systems converge remote-office and data center storage and reduce the latency of file sharing imposed by WAN connections.

By compressing data and using other techniques, WAFS makes response times LAN-like.

To provide WAFS to branch offices, many of which are without IT expertise, HP is using WAN Accelerator technology from Riverbed. The HP EFS WAN Accelerators join a market being targeted by Cisco (with its acquisition of Actona) and Brocade (in a partnership with Tacit Networks).

Ronald Godine, manager of information systems operations for Royal Appliance in Glenwillow, Ohio, is looking at WAFS products for its China operation.

“In the past, we’ve flown CDs to our China office and FTP’d information, but we need real-time access to the data,” he says.

The EFS WAN Accelerators are HP ProLiant server-based and could reduce WAN traffic by 60 percent to 95 percent, according to a document downloaded from HP’s site.

“While over a LAN you have immediate performance, across a WAN you will notice huge differences in performance,” Godine says. “WAFS has the potential to reduce that.”

In an agreement with file-sharing cluster vendor PolyServe, HP is also launching the StorageWorks EFS Clustered Gateway. The gateway allows for as many as 16 nodes – ProLiant servers – in a single cluster and supports a common file system of as large as 16T bytes. The EFS Gateways support Unix/Linux Network File System files and use SuSE Linux Enterprise Server. Because the cluster is symmetrical, any node can back up others in the cluster, thus providing data protection.

The company will also launch the Enterprise Modular Library (EML) array, which will be available in three models over varying capacity. The smallest will top out at 41T bytes and use Limited Tape Open-3 drives. The midrange model will have a capacity of 98T bytes and the largest will support 177T bytes. The libraries, which are expected to ship May 16, have not been priced.

Finally, the StorageWorks virtual tape implementation also fills a gap in the company’s storage systems strategy. Virtual tape, which has become a popular technology since the introduction of EMC’s Clariion Disk Library and Network Appliance’s acquisition of Alacritus, is a capability every storage vendor is getting into in some way.

StorageTek is expected to ship a version of its Virtual Storage Manager for open systems. And a variety of start-ups including Diligent and Sepaton have virtual tape appliances.

The pricing for the new EVAs starts at US$124,000 for 3.5T bytes; a 14T-byte EVA 8000 starts at $409,000.