Compaq lays out future storage plans

Compaq Computer Corp. announced last month a course for its future storage products that will take it into the storage-over-IP arena and lead to the release of a series of hardware and software products targeted at both small businesses and Fortune 500 companies. Analysts say the strategy should position the company well to compete with rivals in the storage market.

The computer vendor said it plans to release six new products, including management software and a RAID device. The releases will be an expansion of the company’s Enterprise Network Storage Architecture, which was first released in 1998 and includes Fibre Channel-based storage-area network (SAN) and network-attached storage (NAS) products.

Analysts say Compaq’s direction is impressive for a company that three years ago had virtually no presence in the enterprise storage sector.

Mark Lewis, vice-president and general manager of the Enterprise Storage Group at Compaq, said the first product is a direct-attached storage to Fibre Channel SAN device, or DtS. Compaq said the device will allow customers with ProLiant servers or larger NAS arrays to pull their disk drives and mount them in a box that will automatically configure the data in a RAID format that can be accessed through a switched network.

Compaq spokesperson Gary Wright said the new rack-mounted device is targeted at small-business or departmental users and is expected to ship within two to three months. He added that it would be competitively priced with the current RAID Array 4100 product.

Compaq said it’s also building a series of products aimed at sending block-level data, such as that in a database, over IP. The products are based on emerging standards that would encapsulate Fibre Channel or SCSI commands and data and wrap them in IP packets for transport over long distances for mirroring, data back-up and recovery purposes.

The IFCP, FCIP and iSCSI products are expected to be announced by the fourth quarter, Wright said.

Compaq said it will also offer an appliance that will allow servers to be configured to access either file-level or block-level data.

Lewis also announced that his group is shipping a new disk array that has Compaq’s VersaStor software embedded in its controller, allowing an IT manager to gather storage space from various storage devices into one virtual pool that can then be allocated to various users.

Rob Johnson, an analyst at Englewood, Colo.-based Evaluator Group Inc., said he is impressed by Compaq’s new focus on management software. In particular, Johnson said, Compaq’s proposed virtual storage software, which would reside in the RAID box and outside of the data path, puts it ahead in a race involving players like IBM, Hewlett-Packard Co. and EMC Corp.

Each vendor has announced or already offers technology that will connect multi-vendor SANs and allow storage to be collected in a virtual pool. Compaq’s VersaStor virtualization technology is expected to ship in October.

“They’re focusing on software, specifically in the area of storage management, SAN topology management and IP-based solutions,” Johnson said. “They’re one of the leaders in providing that.”

However, Johnson faulted Compaq for not exploiting a recently announced cooperative relationship with IBM in the area of SAN management.

Compaq is on the Web at

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