HP renews SMB storage campaign

With the launch of the new All-in-One 1200 and the shifting of executives to a new SMB business unit, HP is focused on its low-end products in an effort to boost growth.

In the wake of a rocky quarter in the storage market, Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) is trying to boost its bottom line in storage with the creation of a new small and midsized business (SMB) unit within HP StorageWorks and an upgrade to the All-in-One (AiO) model based on its latest ProLiant DL320s servers.

The AiO1200 consists of a single 12-drive 2U enclosure that includes HP's T400 controller. The box can mix SATA and SAS within the array.

Software wise, the AiO1200 now includes the option of adding HP's Storage Mirror software for an extra $1,750 for remote replication, as well as new setup and migration wizard support for Microsoft Exchange 2007. Plus, the DL320s controller can provision iSCSI storage for servers running both the 32- and 64-bit versions of Windows Server 2003.

The HP AiO1200 is available now with 12 drive bays, up to 9 terabytes (TB) of capacity and SATA or SAS options. The list price for a base configuration is $8,759, higher than the original AiO 400 and 600 models that were introduced last year at around $5,000, but with 3 TB capacity, while the 400 and 600 models had 1 TB and 1.5 TB capacity respectively.

Like the 400 and 600, The AiO 1200 will be sold primarily through HP's channel. It's the fourth new HP product released in 2007 designed specifically for SMBs.

Channel partners, meanwhile, are hoping this box will offer a performance advantage over the earlier models. According to Frank Vincentelli, senior sales engineer with Integrated IT Solutions of Waltham, Mass., the AiO product has so far proven to be "a mature product, which is rare in the SMB iSCSI environment." However, he said, when the AiO 400 and 600 are expanded using HP's Modular Smart Arrray (MSA) RAID enclosures, the need for a separate chassis to hold more disk can cause a performance bottleneck for users. Vincentelli said he hopes having twice the capacity in the 1200, as well as the SAS connectivity inside the box, will mean fewer users, particularly on the large side of the SMB market, will experience performance bottlenecks as the AiO scales.

Vincentelli said he is wary for now of the new replication software. "I give HP the benefit of the doubt, but with replication, particularly over the WAN, I want to see it work. These things are not easy, especially in the SMB market, and we have seen many [vendors] try and fail."

'A refocusing, not a redirection'

The AiO 1200 is the first product to come out of a new business unit at HP designed to pump more revenue out of HP's strongest business, which is SMB products sold through the channel.

HP has named two executives to the new HP StorageWorks SMB team: Urs Renggli, director of worldwide SMB activities across the Technology Solutions Group, will coordinate storage, server, software and services business units; and Harry Baeverstad, now the director of SMB within the StorageWorks business unit. Previously, Renggli was the director of SMB for HP in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). Baeverstad was the director of the network attached storage (NAS) business for StorageWorks prior to its acquisition of clustered NAS vendor PolyServe Inc., which now serves as the enterprise NAS business unit within HP. According to Baeverstad, the new business unit will pull together products from different groups, but employees within those groups will remain where they are.

"This is a refocusing, not a redirection of our resources," Baeverstad said. Half of HP's total revenue as a company comes out of selling products through its channel to small and midsized businesses, he said, "but we still see it as a growth opportunity." Baeverstad declined to say exactly how many AiO customers HP has, but said they number "in the thousands," and that the product line is growing "beyond our aggressive expectations," he declined to share hard numbers there, too.

Still, according to Tony Asaro, analyst with the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), HP does have an edge on its storage competitors in the SMB market in the form of printers, servers and PCs. "They already have a great brand in that marketplace," Asaro said. "HP can go back to those customers and sell other stuff, like printers and software. What else does EMC and NetApp have to sell them?"

Asaro said he finds the HP AiO a more "thoughtful" product than its competitors. "It's not just a watered-down version of their enterprise storage product," he said. "It's well thought out."

Vincentelli's experience backs this up. "The expectations they set for this product were met," he said, "which is a long way from how any of the other big vendors selling into this space have done."

And there is further opportunity for HP in that space, Asaro said. "From what I'm seeing, nobody's really taking the world by storm in the SMB market -- no one can yet claim anywhere near victory there."

Enterprise storage concerns linger

However, Asaro added, while it may mitigate financial woes related to sluggish performance in the midsize to large enterprise segments of its product lines, those problems will continue to affect HP if more isn't done. "I've heard lots of great roadmap ideas [from HP] over the last two years, but we have yet to see proof of execution on most of them," he said. "You lose momentum when you do that."

In fact, Asaro added, HP might do well to apply some of its thinking around SMB storage to its enterprise products. "I'd like to see some of their sensibilities about combining systems, protocols and tiers of storage into one device moved upmarket," he said. "It's the opposite of how the other storage guys are approaching products."

Meanwhile … LeftHand Networks and the DL320s

HP is also launching the DL320s into the enterprise this week, albeit in a more roundabout way through a meet-in-the-channel deal with iSCSI storage area network (SAN) player LeftHand Networks Inc., that will see LeftHand's SANiQ software bundled with HP DL320s clusters.

According to Baeverstad, what makes the LeftHand version of the DL320s an enterprise play rather than an SMB play, despite the same hardware, is the combination of multiple management capabilities and storage types into a single box on the HP side, while the LeftHand integration focuses on one aspect of storage -- iSCSI SAN.

According to LeftHand, the difference is scalability. "The aggregated LeftHand SAN can scale from a single 320s on up, to over 100 TB," wrote John Fanelli, vice president of marketing for LeftHand, in an email to SearchStorage.com.

However, Fanelli's response also indicated that LeftHand is looking to sell into the low end, too. "[LeftHand's] SAN … satisfies the requirements of customers from the SMB to the enterprise," he wrote.

"I think generally, we're trying to meet the needs of different customers," said Baeverstad. But, he admitted, "The top end of the SMB market can sometimes be a fuzzy line."

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