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HP upgrades EVA midrange SAN array, launches virtualization bundles

Dave Raffo

Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co. updated its storage portfolio today with a new EVA midrange SAN array, a set of pre-packaged storage and compute bundles tuned

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for virtual environments, and a new Windows-based NAS. The company also laid out plans for a building-block approach to future data storage products that would involve more bundling of its storage, server and networking products.

The launch came during the opening day of HP’s Discover 2011 user show in Las Vegas. HP didn't upgrade its flagship 3PAR storage platform that it paid $2.35 billion to acquire last year, although 3PAR storage is included in one of its new VirtualSystem bundles.

EVA gets thin provisioning, but not 3PAR’s

The HP P6000 EVA will have thin provisioning and native iSCSI support for the first time, as well as support for 2.5-inch 6 Gbps SAS drives and LUN-level tiering for data migration. Two new models -- the P6300 and P6500 -- replace the P6400 and P8400 models, but the software that enables thin provisioning, tiering and iSCSI support will be available to existing EVA customers.

The P6500 scales to 480 TB with 2 TB SAS drives, while the P6300 scales to 240 TB. The other major difference is that the P6500 uses 8 GB of cache vs. 4 GB for the P6300. Both are two-controller systems.

HP revealed in May that it would refresh the EVA this month, amid speculation it would kill the platform after acquiring 3PAR. Tom Joyce, vice president for marketing, strategy and operations for HP storage, said the 10-year-old EVA platform has 100,000 customers, and “a lot of those customers have been looking forward to a refresh for quite a while.”

Joyce said many EVA customers want a system that's easy to use and less expensive than 3PAR, comparing 3PAR to a Ferrari or Mercedes and the EVA to a pickup truck. He said EVA thin provisioning leverages “expertise” from HP’s 3PAR and LeftHand platforms but its code is unique to the EVA. “EVA customers wanted thin provisioning and tiering, but not in a way that was challenging. EVA is stripped down to its essentials,” Joyce said.

Joyce said the P6000 EVA will support solid-state drives (SSDs) later this year, but the EVA doesn't support automated sub-LUN tiering that competitors EMC, Dell (through its Compellent acquisition) and IBM, or even HP’s 3PAR, provide for efficient placement of data on SSDs.

A year ago, HP launched the EVA Cluster that connected two EVA arrays with the Storage Virtualization Services Platform (SVSP) product HP sold through an OEM deal with LSI. But at the end of 2010, HP discontinued the EVA Cluster and SVSP. “We didn’t get a great response,” Joyce said of that product. “That didn’t maintain the EVA’s value around simplicity.”

VirtualSystem: An answer to Vblock?

HP sees its VirtualSystem bundles as competitive to the EMC-Cisco-VMware Vblock bundles for virtual environments and storage clouds. The bundles are based on HP storage and servers, including the BladeSystem Matrix Converged Infrastructure systems that packages servers and networking as an answer to Cisco Systems’ Unified Computing System (UCS).

There are three VirtualSystem bundles. The smallest uses HP ProLiant servers, LeftHand P4500 SANs and HP Virtual Connect switch modules. The medium-sized bundle includes P4800 LeftHand storage running on an HP BladeSystem server with Virtual Connect and the largest bundle is a BladeSystem with 3PAR storage. The high-end system includes Fibre Channel SAN switches from Brocade.

The bundles include VMware or Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisor software. They can also be upgraded to HP Cloud System packages to create hybrid clouds.

Midrange Windows-based NAS

HP is also introducing an HP X5000 G2 Network Storage active-active NAS system based on Windows Storage Server (WSS). It's HP’s first multi-node product built on WSS, and it also supports iSCSI. The X5000 uses the same hardware as the HP E5000 Messaging System for Microsoft Exchange that HP launched earlier this year based on ProLiant blade servers.

“This is bringing Windows NAS to the midrange,” Joyce said of the new X5000.

In addition, HP upgraded its X9000 NAS system that uses a clustered file system acquired from Ibrix in 2009 and said it will no longer sell software it acquired from PolyServe with the X9000. After buying Ibrix, HP continued to make NAS systems available with PolyServe for high-performance markets; it will now use Ibrix with all its clustered NAS.

“We want to focus on things that are game changers or winners,” Joyce said.

HP is also adding snapshots and WORM file locking for data retention to the XP9000. “We didn’t have the things you needed to go after broader-based opportunities,” Joyce said.

Storage360: More bundles coming

Joyce said HP will add more products based on its storage building blocks plus Converged Infrastructure as part of what it's calling its Storage360 architecture. Storage360 consists of LeftHand, Ibrix and HP's StoreOnce deduplication software merged into a common platform.

“They came from different places, but over the last 18 months we’ve taken the underpinnings of those three products and moved them to a common platform,” Joyce said. “In the future, we will run BladeSystem with Ibrix and LeftHand software in the same box. We’ll also build a large deduplication facility into Ibrix. First, we had to get these things running on common code.”

HP launched StoreOnce for its low-end disk backup appliances in 2008 and last year said it would be expanded for other HP products. It remains relegated to backup, but Joyce said he expects an announcement of StoreOnce on other platforms late this year.

He said HP is also dropping the StorageWorks brand from its storage products.

Is it enough?

Like other server vendors, HP has been losing storage market share to pure-play storage vendors EMC, Hitachi Data Systems and NetApp. The latest IDC storage tracker numbers released last week show HP with 10.5% of the external storage market last quarter. HP grew 16% year-over-year compared to NetApp’s 38%, Hitachi Data Systems' 27% and EMC’s 25% revenue increases.

Analysts question whether modest EVA enhancements and bundles of existing products can help HP reverse the tide.

“HP has [less than] 11% of the external storage market. Compared to everywhere else HP competes, that’s miserable,” said Mark Peters, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. “That tells you HP’s not even getting its far share among people who buy their computing products. HP has to get some better perception around its storage. I don’t think adding blocks of compute will change the storage success of HP. I’m assuming if you like HP, you’ll like VirtualSystem, if you like EMC you’ll buy Vblock, and if you like NetApp you’ll go with FlexPod.”

Jeff Boles, a senior analyst and director, validation services at Taneja Group, said the VirtualSystem architecture isn’t completely new for HP because it already sells LeftHand systems on ProLiant and BladeSystem servers.

“It’s interesting to see HP throwdown wholeheartedly with its converged infrastructure,” he said. “That started with LeftHand, and it’s gone well. I think that’s influenced their thinking for this building-block approach.

“It’s interesting to see them deploy so much on blade server and rack servers," Boles added. "It’s easier to scale storage when it’s in the rack. When you have different form factors for storage and servers and manage them separately, it introduces latency and inefficiencies.”

Boles said HP’s EVA upgrade “came as a surprise to everybody” after the 3PAR acquisition but should make EVA customers happy. “There are a lot of shops out there running a lot of EVAs,” he said. “I know people with 15 or 20 of them, and it would be a big effort to replace all of them.”


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