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HP reassures the faithful

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Dogged for the last year or so by a shrinking storage market share, a widely held perception that the company had lost its storage focus, high-level executive defections and rumblings within the ranks, Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co. picked its annual user conference in Las Vegas last May to roll out a slew of new and enhanced products it hoped would silence critics and allay customer concerns.

But even the big rollout went awry, with reports about the new HP offerings appearing in the computer and business press more than a week before the planned announcements. While the drama of the moment might have been lost, the sheer breadth of the rollouts was enough to salvage the firm's much-needed momentum.

Lacking a single jaw-dropping product introduction as a centerpiece, HP instead opted for quantity, rolling out a half-dozen not-so-major products and services intended to nudge the firm into emerging markets and address users' immediate needs. "It's not the celebrity product; it's really the system solution that HP can bring," says Bob Schultz, senior vice president and general manager of HP's StorageWorks division. Bolstering the package of new products were announcements of a dozen enhancements to existing hardware and software products.

A bevy of new products
HP executives say the event

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was the biggest storage product rollout in HP's history. If "big" is a measurement of the number of products introduced or the new storage markets that HP is entering, then the company's boast can be taken at face value. "I think it's great to see the number and breadth of announcements," says Scott Erkonen, managing officer of networking at Premier Bankcard Inc. in Sioux Falls, SD.

"They took two years to rationalize all the Compaq and HP products together and ended up falling a bit behind," notes Nancy Hurley, senior analyst at the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), Milford, MA. Now, she adds, HP is filling out its portfolio to demonstrate that it's committed to being a strong player in the storage market.

The key product announcements fall into five storage areas:

  • Arrays--new midrange Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA) models (see Enhanced EVA line, this page).
  • Backup--a virtual tape library (VTL) system and a mid-level tape library (see New backup products).
  • NAS--a clustered NAS gateway (see First foray into NAS gateways, this page).
  • Wide Area File Services (WAFS)--a WAN accelerator device (see Appliance for remote office access).
  • Information lifecycle management (ILM)--services to assist in the preparation and implementation of an ILM process (see ILM help).

The least-surprising, and long anticipated, announcement was the refresh of HP's popular midrange EVA line. Three new models--the EVA4000, EVA6000 and EVA8000--were added to replace the aging EVA3000 and EVA5000 arrays. Users have waited nearly two years for a significant upgrade to the line, and for some it comes just as they're pushing the upper limits of the EVA5000.

"We've got two EVAs that, from a performance and transaction processing base, we don't really need," says Todd Warnock, director of technology services at NetBank Inc., Alpharetta, GA. "But we needed it to get the capacity beyond 35 terabytes." Before the new models were rolled out, the only recourse for users nearing capacity ceilings on their EVA5000s was to buy another system--not an appealing alternative for users who opted for the EVA array based on its modularity and ability to grow.

Enhanced EVA line

Introduced more than four years ago, this is the first major refresh of Hewlett-Packard's Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA) line in nearly two years. The new EVAs—the EVA4000, EVA6000 and EVA8000—will replace the current, somewhat long-in-the-tooth EVA3000 and EVA5000 models.

 

EVA model EVA 4000 EVA 6000 EVA 8000
Max capacity 16.8 TB 33.6 TB 72.0 TB
Min/max disks 8/56 16/112 8/240
Drive types 72 GB/ 146 GB/ 300 GB at 10K rpm; 72GB/146 GB at 15K rpm; 250 GB FATA
Cache       2 GB 2 GB                    4GB              
Host ports 4 4 8
Device ports 4 4 8
Sequential read/write

350 MB/ sec

290 MB/ sec

650 MB/ sec 

500 MB/ sec 

1,300 MB/sec

600 MB/ sec 

 

Random reads 13,000 IO/sec 26,000 IO/ sec 54,000 IO/ sec
OS support Windows 2000 and 2003; HP-UX; Linux; TRU64; OpenUMS; Solaris; AIX
List price (starts at) $124K (3.5 TB) $221K (6.71 TB) $409K (14 TB)

The EVA architecture has undergone some modification: The controllers have been tweaked to improve performance and lift their storage capacities. The high-end EVA8000 tops out at 72TB (with an expansion cabinet), more than twice the EVA5000's 35TB total capacity. All of the new EVAs can support a mix of Fibre Channel (FC) and Fibre-Attached Technology Adapted (FATA) drives.

"They just turned the crank one more time," says Randy Kerns, a senior partner at Greenwood Village, CO-based Evaluator Group Inc., who emphasizes that the refreshes are "minor." But, he adds, customers are likely to embrace the evolutionary nature of the EVA enhancements because implementing the systems will be "a low-risk issue."

HP will stop selling the EVA3000 and EVA5000, but will continue to support them. Users upgrading to one of the new models should be able to use their existing disk enclosures, although the migration might not be so simple, according to Kyle Fitze, director of SAN marketing for HP's StorageWorks division. "It'll involve some planned downtime," he says, adding that users will need to replace their existing EVA controllers and remap all data. Trying to make the upgrade as easy as possible, Fitze says HP will provide tools to help automate some of the process, such as data migration and logical unit number (LUN) mapping. "It will definitely be one that we're going to tackle with [HP] professional services," says Premier Bankcard's Erkonen, describing his firm's expected EVA8000 migration.

At its annual user conference, HP was preaching to the faithful and many attendees have already factored one or more of the new models into their upgrade plans. "Our plan is to move to the new EVA8000," says Warnock. "We have some EVA5000s that are coming off lease this year and our plan is to do some controller consolidation." Erkonen expects to install an EVA8000 to handle OLTP apps, file shares and e-mail. "That's where we'll really get the bang for the buck." he notes.

Fender Musical Instruments Corp. in Scottsdale, AZ, is also looking to upgrade to an EVA8000. "We're rapidly running out of space," says Kevin Pollock, manager of data center and network services at Fender. "We're looking to upgrade now, probably to an 8000."

While the EVA upgrades might play well with HP's existing EVA customers, Steven Berg, vice president and senior analyst at Punk, Ziegel & Company in New York City, isn't impressed with the announcements and thinks the model upgrades will do little to expand HP's user base. "They're probably not taking share from EMC's Clariion or IBM's Engenio [DS4000 series, formerly known as FastT storage] products," says Berg.

For some, the new HP products may be a case of too little, too late. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) in Pennsylvania has more than 150TB of HP storage in its data centers, but over the next three years they'll replace it with IBM Corp. arrays as part of a $402 million deal the medical center signed with IBM.

"HP and IBM competed for this, and HP eventually bowed out," says Joe Furmanski, technical project director at UPMC. He says HP's sudden exit from the proposal process seemed to coincide with management changes at HP. "HP bowing out of this competition was kind of timely with Carly's [former chairman and CEO Carly Fiorina] leaving," Furmanski says.

New backup products

Hewlett-Packard (HP) has added its first virtual tape library (VTL) appliance, the StorageWorks 6000 Virtual Library System (VLS), to its line of tape-based backup devices. Key features include the following:

A new midrange tape library, the StorageWorks Enterprise Modular Library (EML) E-Series Tape Library, was also added to HP's roster of tape systems. This is an OEM product from Storage Technology Corp., which will become part of Sun Microsystems. Not surprisingly, HP is positioning the new EML as a perfect complement to its EVA storage systems—in fact, it uses the same rack design as the EVA.

First foray into NAS gateways
Hewlett-Packard extended its ProLiant-based NAS product line with the StorageWorks Enterprise File Services (EFS) Clustered Gateway. The new NAS gateway is also built on a ProLiant server, running SuSE 9.0 Linux with clustering capabilities provided by PolyServe Inc.'s File Serving Solution. The gateway can be used as a front end to existing HP XP, EVA and MSA storage arrays to provide file services. The PolyServe software allows scaling up to 16 nodes, which can handle a maximum of 8.2 petabytes of storage. When nodes are added, the process is transparent to users, with the cluster automatically discovering the new node and balancing the workload appropriately. Harry Baeverstad, director of NAS for HP StorageWorks, says support for other vendors' storage systems will be added late this year or in early 2006. The initial offerings in this product line are:


* A single-node configuration with a list price of $30,300.
* A two-node configuration that starts at $74,700.

Partnering for products
Three of the new products--the HP StorageWorks 6000 Virtual Library System, Enterprise File Services (EFS) WAN Accelerator and EFS Clustered Gateway--represent HP's initial forays into storage market territories where the firm previously lacked a presence. Interestingly, all three products are based on technology supplied by other companies--PolyServe Inc.'s clustering app for the NAS gateway; Riverbed Technology Inc.'s Wide Area Data Services software for the WAN Accelerator; and Sepaton Inc. for the VTL.

The issue of HP turning to third parties for technology might seem like a big deal for a company that features the word "Invent" in its logo, but for some users this strategy isn't unsettling. Premier Bankcard's Erkonen, for example, sees the partnering as HP's validation of some relatively new technologies and is more comfortable obtaining products based on those technologies from HP than from the smaller startups that developed them. Like other HP users, he also likes the idea of a one-stop shop. "One throat to choke is the way we look at it," jokes Erkonen.

"You don't have to reinvent everything," says HP's Schultz, a sentiment he used in his address at the StorageWorks conference where he said it "takes more than HP alone." Schultz may be trying to assure HP users that these new products don't signal a shift from product development for HP, despite the fact that the third-party software is nearly intact and has only minor interface adjustments. "I don't have a concern with their partnering with vendors," says Kevin Donnellan, director of enterprise infrastructure services at the Screen Actors Guild-Producers Pension and Health Plans in Burbank, CA. "It keeps costs down."

According to Punk, Ziegel & Company's Berg, HP's partner selection isn't strong. Riverbed's software for the WAN Accelerator is essentially a default choice, he says, because two of the other key players in this still small market--Actona Technologies Inc. and Tacit Software Inc.--were no longer available. Actona was bought by Cisco Systems Inc. a year ago and Tacit is partnering with Brocade Communications Systems Inc. Berg also considers FalconStor Software Inc.'s VTL product better than Sepaton's. Although HP used to resell the FalconStor product, Sepaton will replace it in HP's product line, a move Berg suggests HP is making to distinguish itself from EMC Corp., which resells FalconStor's VTL software.

But Berg's take on HP's partnering is largely at odds with other industry analysts who give the thumbs up to HP's choices and see the move into new application areas as more important than how the firm gets there. "Some people might say they're just partnering up with everybody," says ESG's Hurley. That would be an oversimplification, she notes. HP is just avoiding reinventing the wheel while advancing emerging technologies. "They bring a clout and credibility that the smaller vendors never could," adds Hurley.

Stephanie Balaouras, a senior analyst at Boston-based Yankee Group, sees HP's OEM activities as just another example of how the industry works today. "The systems vendors in general are focusing on their core strengths and partnering with the best-of-breed partners," she says. And the product categories that HP is jumping into are requisites for any big player in the open-systems market. The VTL product may prove to be one of the more important products in the announcements as it complements HP's very successful tape backup business, Balaouras adds.

Similarly, remote storage solutions and high-end NAS are picking up steam, so HP venturing into these areas effectively plugs a couple of holes in its product lineup. Hurley thinks HP's decision to go with PolyServe for its clustered NAS gateway was a shrewd choice. "What HP ended up with in the long term is what NetApp [Network Appliance Inc.] is trying to get to with [its] Spinnaker [Networks acquisition]," she says.

Many HP users are definitely interested in the new products, if not ready to cut a purchase order immediately. Pollock at Fender Musical Instruments will consider the VTL product because he expects storage capacity to grow at the company as it adds new users from its European locations. "We're trying to come up with a way to meet our shrinking backup window," says Pollock.

At Premier Bankcard, Erkonen thinks WAN Accelerator can help tie together the firm's geographically dispersed sites. "Being able to deploy storage to all of our call centers or bank locations, and to then be able to pull it in over the WAN to centralize the backup or for disaster recovery processes is definitely of interest," he says.

ILM assistance
The fifth pillar of HP's product introductions is a set of services built around ILM, an area that's gaining increasing attention from users and vendors alike. "It's almost a requirement for anybody who has any type of announcement to have something about ILM in it," observes the Evaluator Group's Kerns.

The first wave of ILM services are divided into six modules designed to address specific steps in an ILM implementation process. HP is using a workshop approach for each of the modules and has tailored them so that each one shouldn't require long customer engagements to complete each step in the process. Beyond allowing customers to pick and choose from a menu of the services, there doesn't appear to be anything particularly unique about the offerings. However, HP should be able to parlay its solid reputation in the services arena to make its ILM efforts successful. "You know HP knows how to deliver services," says ESG's Hurley.

Offering a formal approach to ILM planning is a timely move, with compliance issues compelling many companies to re-examine their data retention policies. "I guess we've bought into HP's whole concept around information lifecycle management," says NetBank's Warnock. The company recently purchased an HP Reference Information Storage System (RISS), so the new ILM services could be helpful as it develops its plans around RISS.

ILM help

Besides a bevy of hardware and software, Hewlett-Packard's (HP's) Storage Services group launched a new set of services built around various information lifecycle management (ILM)-related disciplines. HP touts these offerings as a new set of services, although some might have been provided in similar forms in the past. The initial six services—HP says others will be added later—include:

* ILM Discovery Workshop
* ILM Data and Information Discovery
* ILM Business Requirements Analysis
* ILM Business Value Analysis
* ILM Solution Architecture Blueprint
* ILM Policy Definition

HP says the new suite of services is vendor-agnostic, and not just intended for current or potential HP customers. Sets of services will also be tailored for specific vertical markets. Pricing for each phase is variable, based on a company's size and the complexity of its requirements.

Appliance for remote office access

Hewlett-Packard's (HP's) new StorageWorks Enterprise File Services (EFS) WAN Accelerator speeds up data transmissions over WAN links to allow remote offices to access data center storage or back up local data to a central site. The appliance is built atop an HP ProLiant server running Linux. The software that does the accelerating is Wide Area Data Services (WDS) from Riverbed Technology Inc. WDS compresses data by removing redundancies and optimizing TCP.

HP claims the EFS WAN Accelerator can effectively improve data rates by up to 100 times. Five models will eventually be available, with pricing based on the number of users. The initial models are as follows:

  • The entry-level DL320-510, priced at $11,000
  • The DL380-3010, which is configured for high availability at $42,500
  • An additional device, the EFS WAN Accelerator Manager, can manage up to 25 accelerator devices in large configurations; it lists for $13,500.

Loyalties tested over the past year
By any account, HP's storage business has had a rough time for the last year and a half. IDC's report on first quarter revenues and market shares for 2005 shows HP still trailing EMC in external storage sales: EMC held 21.4% of the market vs. HP's 17.7%. While EMC's share was down slightly from its 22% market share for the last quarter of 2004, HP's share has dipped even lower from its fourth quarter 19.4% share.

For all disk storage (direct-attached and networked), HP still maintains its leadership position over IBM. For the fourth quarter of 2004, IDC shows HP's market share at 24.2% vs. IBM's 22.5%. In the first quarter of this year, HP's share dropped to 22.5%, but it widened its lead over IBM, which had an 18.6% share. HP's strength in the overall disk storage market can be attributed to its strong server and desktop sales.

It can be argued that much of the damage done to HP's storage image and market share has been self-inflicted. In a recent interview with Storage editors, Ann Livermore, executive vice president of HP's technology solutions group, conceded that "it's been a fair critique over the past year that, at times, we had part of our portfolio that was ready to be refreshed."

HP's Schultz echoes Livermore's refrain, saying that "over the last year there have been a lot of questions," such as "Is HP committed to storage? What's HP doing in storage? and Where are they going in storage?" But Schultz is confident that this round of announcements, along with others to come, will help silence critics. "The best way to answer that is to show people," he says.

The gaps in HP's product line and its slowness to refresh some existing products may be attributed to the complexities of the Compaq merger. Along the way, HP lost several key storage executives, and several more were replaced by former CEO Fiorina after disappointing results. All of this added to the impression that the company's storage strategy was adrift. "One of the things that was a concern before the current management was 'What's the real, long-term storage direction?'" says UPMC's Furmanski.

The consensus is that new products have helped to re-establish HP's mindshare in the storage world. And having a more complete product line will help, too. "They're not going to have to come to the table with a partial portfolio anymore," says Hurley.

Somewhat lost in the product blitz is the announcement that HP is significantly beefing up its field forces. "We've been hiring specialists," says Livermore, "but we still don't have as many as we'd like."

The company has a lot of loyal customers, but their loyalty hasn't necessarily translated into blind allegiance to the HP brand. Many HP customers, such as Premier Bankcard's Erkonen, have considered other vendors. "We've done due diligence and compared all the different vendors as we've been making our decisions," notes Erkonen, "and HP has still continued to be the vendor of choice." Similarly, Fender Musical Instruments' Pollock looked at storage systems from Dell and IBM before settling on HP.

But skeptics remain. "The joke was that if IBM sells sushi, HP sells raw fish," quips Furmanski. "It's the same thing, but it's how you market it." While doubts may linger for Furmanski, other HP users are convinced. Before the recent announcements, "We were a little disappointed," says Erkonen. "It's great to see the meat and potatoes back on HP's table."

This was first published in July 2005

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