HP deflects criticism of OEM strategy

HP used its annual StorageWorks conference to roll out major additions to its product line, including several new OEM products.

LAS VEGAS -- At its annual Americas StorageWorks Conference this week, Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) made a raft of storage product announcements. But what stood out the most is the number of OEM deals HP has secured to beef up its product line.

Bob Schultz, senior vice president and general manager of the StorageWorks division, addressed the fact that three of the new products -- the virtual tape library, the NAS gateway and the WAN accelerator --are based on third-party software from Sepaton Inc., PolyServe Inc. and Riverbed Technology Inc, respectively.

Without specifically naming these partners, Schultz apparently deflected any potential criticism that HP may be eschewing its own research and development in favor of OEM agreements with small software innovators by emphasizing the importance of the new relationships and pointing out that "it takes more than HP alone."

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As reported earlier on SearchStorage.com, there has also been a refresh of the midrange EVA line of storage arrays, with three models -- the 4000, 6000 and 8000 -- replacing the now almost venerable EVA 3000 and 5000. The 4000 and 6000 share identical controllers, with the 6000 adding a switch to accommodate additional shelves of disks. The new top-of-the-line 8000 uses a different controller. All of the arrays can mix Fibre Channel and FATA disks on any shelf.

Reassuring customers and channel partners was also a major theme of the conference as HP has been criticized for letting the popular EVA languish and not appearing to maintain its position as a leading storage provider. In a Q&A session for journalists and analysts, Schultz said that HP is also bolstering its sales and support, noting that for the "last several months we've been training our sales force." Other HP executives at the session reiterated the company's renewed efforts, with Ann Livermore, executive vice president of HP's technology solutions group, admitting that HP "flat-out did not have the sales coverage that we needed." She added, "We've been hiring specialists, but we still don't have as many as we'd like."

Many customers at the conference appreciated HP's pledges of its commitment to storage. Scott Erkonen, director of technology for First Premier BankCard in South Dakota, said his shop has been waiting to upgrade its 74 terabytes of HP EVA, MSA and EMA storage. Erkonen was particularly interested in the EVA 8000, but said that the long wait for new EVA models had caused some concern, and at the end of last year his company began looking at possible alternatives from IBM and Dell Inc. "After the merger, there were some questions while operational things were being worked out regarding what's really going on from a development standpoint." Referring to the breadth of the announcements, Erkonen said "I think it's really showing the commitment that HP has to storage."

Peter Eklund of IOFO, a data center operation supporting the Veterans Health Administration's hospitals, was disappointed that there was no mention of the legacy Alpha system, but felt some reassurance, and noted that HP seemed to be getting back to the environment of the old Compaq/DEC days.

On the services side, the company unveiled a series of information lifecycle management (ILM) oriented services, seven in total, that are designed to help users define and design ILM systems.

Many familiar HP refrains were replayed, with frequent references to the "adaptive enterprise," the synchronization of IT and business functions, and the importance of hardware and software standards. Also touted was the StorageWorks Grid concept, although none of the new products appear to advance that concept significantly. But taking care not to lets its visions of the future of storage get too far ahead of its customers, Schultz reassured attendees that HP will be "relentless in our efforts to give you what you need today."

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