NEW YORK -- After a preannouncement in July intended to build up hype around a new storage product aimed at the small and midsized business (SMB) market, Hewlett Packard Co. (HP) finally made an official announcement, complete with technical details, of its new All-in-One (AiO) SAN/NAS array targeted at SMBs.
The AiO is available in two models -- the AiO400 and the AiO600. The AiO400 starts at $5,000 for a 1U rack-mountable system with four SATA drive bays and a raw capacity of 1 terabyte (TB). The AiO600 starts at $6,700 for a raw capacity of 1.5 TB SATA, $9,000 for 3 TB SATA and $9,250 for 876 GB
The boxes are meant for shops with between three and seven servers, with a ceiling of about 15 servers for the ideal environment, according to Harry Baeverstad, director of network attached storage (NAS) at HP. Environments with more than a dozen servers should first consider the MSA storage area network (SAN) line, which includes more enterprise-level high-availability features, he said.
"This is a really smooth feature," said Rick Villars, vice president of storage systems for IDC.
A series of configuration wizards, based on Microsoft best practices, walks users through the steps to configure iSCSI logical unit numbers (LUN), volumes on the Exchange host, set up quotas and migrate data from a direct-attached Exchange storage environment to networked storage on the AiO. After those steps are completed, the wizard also guides the user through setting up snapshot frequency and backup through HP's Data Protector Express software. "Best practices alerts" send emails when 75% capacity thresholds are being reached; extra space can be allocated to volumes using the wizards as well. Finally, AiO boxes can be replicated to one another using Windows' replication software, Distributed File System Replication (DFSR).
"The key here is that users can consolidate their storage onto a networked box without thinking about what data they have to move," said Dianne McAdam, analyst with the Clipper Group.
Especially when it comes to Exchange, McAdam said, "the detail work involved in migrating that application is not trivial."
The analysts also added that the box could find a home within larger enterprises at remote and branch offices with few or no dedicated IT staff.
Users like the disaster recovery features and price
A few SMB shops on hand in New York for the announcement said they had found the box's automatic backup and disaster recovery capabilities most useful.
"Being right on Tampa Bay on the 32nd floor of a high rise involves a lot of risk," said David Lay, director of IT for Salem Law Group. The group purchased two AiO400 boxes, which replicate to one another over a 30-mile distance, between the high-rise in Tampa and a collocated facility in a hardened former military bunker in Pinellas County.
At $10,000 for the two boxes with built-in replication, Lay estimated his company's savings at $20,000 to $30,000 over purchasing two of HP's previous low-end storage offerings from the MSA product line -- which would only have offered block-level iSCSI access, rather than a combined SAN/NAS system and would not have included replication, Lay noted.
Not that there isn't room for improvement, according to Lay, who pointed out that while the Data Protector Express software can be used automatically to back up the AiO box itself, the AiO box does not yet automatically configure itself as a backup target for hosts, a capability Lay said he would like to see added to the product.
The bad news: NonWindows need not apply
It's good news for SMBs running Windows applications -- which the vast majority of them are -- but the odd Linux box takes some gyrations to configure on the system. A user who wants to point a Linux, Apple, Novell or other nonWindows server to the AiO can do it by configuring its file share as an iSCSI LUN, which the AiO software virtualizes as an NTFS file share, which can then be picked up for replication by DFSR. All of this must also be done without the benefit of the automation and wizards HP has for the Windows applications, according to Pete Maddocks, research and development manager in HP's storage division.
Moreover, Windows applications, other than Exchange and SQL, don't currently enjoy the same level of automation as yet, according to Baeverstad. Applications other than Exchange and SQL currently fall under "user-specified" on the list of application options within the AiO graphical user interface (GUI), and the automatic data migration to the AiO box is not available in that category currently, he said.
"There's no way they're going to be able to form partnerships with all software companies the way they have with Microsoft," Villars said. "But there has to be some way for independent software vendors (ISV) to create that automation for customers in the future."
Meanwhile, though HP's MSA 20, 30 and 50 SATA arrays are meant to be used as expansion arrays for the AiO 400 and 600, as the products are configured right now, users had better know for sure whether or not they want the option of adding SAS disk up front -- SAS modules are not compatible with the AiS400, and there is no upgrade path between the two models.
Trend toward the low end
Network Appliance, Inc. (NetApp), IBM and EMC Corp. have all released arrays targeted at the SMB market recently. NetApp's StoreVault S500 can scale to 12 SATA drives and 6 TB, but a base configuration is 1 TB, also for $5,000. IBM's SMB offering (emphasis on the "M") is an OEM of an Engenio Information Technologies Inc. Fibre Channel disk array, the DS4700 Express, which features 4 Gbps connectivity and starts at around $15,000 for 4.8 TB. IBM also has an email archiving offering aimed at SMBs, called the IBM CommonStore eMail Archiving Preload. EMC's AX150 system is priced starting at $5,600 for 750 GB. EMC has scaled down some of its enterprise software in the Insignia line, which must be pieced together in the user's environment.