HP ups ante with new offerings

In an effort to simplify storage for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), Hewlett-Packard Co. announced this week it has added two new products to its StorageWorks Modular Smart Array (MSA) family and created four new packaged solutions by combining the MSA products with its ProLiant servers.

HP has had its MSA1000 product for storage area networks (SANs) on the market for a few years now, but new to the family are the MSA30 and the MSA500.

The MSA30 is a direct attach storage device for single servers that is ideal for workgroups and departmental users, said Parag Suri, category business manager, networked storage solutions at HP Canada Co. in Mississauga, Ont. It consists of 14 145GB hard drives, and as result can store up to 2TB of data, Suri said. It sells for US$3,200. To use the MSA30, users would need to connect it to a server using an HP Smart Array RAID controller, Suri said.

The MSA500 also stores up to 2TB of data and is a direct attach storage system, but it is designed for a two-node cluster or can be used in a low-cost four-node storage system, Suri said. He added that it is ideal for consolidating storage in remote sites or in distributed clustered environments. It retails at US$5,700.

However, if users were looking to implement a SAN environment, then they would want to consider the MSA1000, Suri said. It is a 14-drive, 4U array, with six- to eight-port Fibre Channel switches. It can store up to 6TB of data, and is priced at US$9,995.

Jorge Borbolla, CIO at AutoTradeCenter.com in Menlo Park, Calif., said his company has been using the MSA1000 for the past nine months, after the company transferred to an Oracle rack on Linux. The MSA family supports Microsoft Windows, Linux and Novell Inc.’s operating systems.

Borbolla also considered the EMC Corp.’s Clariion CX200, which is sold by Dell Corp. – HP’s biggest competitor in the SMB storage market – through a partnership with EMC. Even though the CX200 had features not contained in the MSA1000, such as an onboard battery back-up and more support, Borbolla said HP’s offering was a lot cheaper than the CX200. At less than half the price of one CX200, the company bought two MSA1000s – one for its test stage environment and one for its production environment.

“Hands down the MSA1000 was a clear ROI (return on investment) winner,” Borbolla said.

Alan Freedman, research manager, infrastructure hardware at IDC Canada Ltd., said HP is positioned to do well in this market.

“[HP] had a good base in the SMB [market] coming from the Compaq side of the house and [these offerings] really speak to that install base,” he said.

Prices of components are dropping in the storage market, he added, making technology previously unattainable to the SMB market, available in entry-level solutions, Freedman said. Thus the SMB storage market is just beginning to bloom.

He said when it comes to storage, SMBs need a solution that is easy to install, easy to manage, is automated, integrated with back-up and is upgradeable over time.

In attempts to address these needs, HP is also bundling its MSA offerings with its ProLiant servers. The first package includes two HP ProLiant DL380 servers, an MSA 500 enclosure, two host bus adapters and the required cables. HP says is ideal for remote sites and distributed clustered environments.

“Basically you can think of it as a cluster in a box,” Suri said, adding that it is easy to deploy, easy to manage and easy to purchase because all the equipment comes pre-configured. It retails at US$9,999.

There is also a packaged offering combining two HP ProLiant DL380 servers, an MSA1000 enclosure, two host bus adapters, one eight-port Fibre Channel switch, and the required cables. HP said it is designed for multiple clusters and multi-node clusters capable of supporting up to 20 servers, and is priced at US$19,999.

Whether it would be more advantageous for a user to purchase a packaged solution or a standalone MSA-device depends on the user’s needs and infrastructure, Suri said.

For example, if a remote office of a company that already has an infrastructure in place, such as a bank branch, wanted to simply upgrade its systems, it would benefit more from purchasing a standalone MSA-device, Suri explained.

“The bank would typically have centralized computing, but at the branch level they need to have distributed computing. So the branch has servers installed already and if it needed to increase its storage…it can directly attach MSA30,” Suri said.

However, in the case where a company was building a totally new infrastructure, it would be better off buying a ready-to-go cluster solution or SAN solution, Suri explained. The packaged options are lower-cost, simple to install and have one common management tool for both the servers and the MSA device, he added.

HP is also selling MSA500 and MSA1000 Starter Kits and High Availability Kits. The Starter Kits include hardware and software to enable users to consolidate storage in direct attach SCSI environments, in the case of the MSA500 or an entry-level SAN environment, in the case of the MSA1000. These kits cost US$5,499 and US$14,900 for the MSA500 and MSA1000 kits respectively. The High Availability Kits provide the tools for the user to enable fully redundant configurations, and cost US$3,999 for the MSA500 kit, and US$14,500 for the MSA1000 kit.

HP Canada is online at www.hp.ca.

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