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HP's got a storage roadmap, but some directions unclear

Kevin Komiega

One day after the newly merged Hewlett-Packard Corp., was officially launched, the company has picked through its storage portfolio and decided which technologies will survive and which will eventually fall by the wayside.

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HP lays out roadmap, storage details to follow

HP's storage lineup

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At the outset, many of the technologies will be merged, but the company made it clear that some redundant products will be phased out. While some offerings will eventually go, customer investments will be protected executives said. Products that do not have a comparable or superior technology to replace them will not be discontinued.

Analysts said HP now has a storage line that unprecedented but it's roadmap -- how it's going to move forward from this point on -- is a bit murky.

In a press conference Wednesday, members of the new HP Network Storage Solutions (NSS) Group detailed a three-year technology roadmap for its product line including disk arrays, storage area networks, network-attached storage, tape and software.

In the high-end, HP will maintain a dual offering. Both the Compaq Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA) and the HP XP Virtual Arrays will survive the integration.

The XP and EVA have similar features and functionality, but HP said both products have market share and serve different needs of HP's customer base.

The XP arrays will be focused toward customers who require monolithic mainframe connectivity while the EVA's modular architecture will fit in high-end networked storage environments.

In the midrange, Compaq's Enterprise Modular Arrays (EMA) will win out over HP's Virtual Arrays. Mark Lewis, worldwide marketing and solutions for NSS at HP, said both product lines will live on, but each product will be brought under one architecture based on EVA technology.

HP also intends to keep moving forward with the Modular SAN Array 1000 product and, over the next two-to-three years, will trickle the EVA technology down into the midrange class.

In the area of NAS, both the Compaq Executor E7000 and the HP Surestore NAS XP will coexist from day one, but HP will move to an appliance-based model to adopt the trend toward SAN/NAS convergence. The appliance will be more centered toward the E7000's design, Lewis said.

When it comes to tape HP has the best of both worlds. Customers will still be able to buy DLT, SDLT and LTO Ultrium tape drives and libraries. The StorageWorks tape libraries for the midrange and enterprise customers and a mix of HP and Compaq autoloader technology will find its way to the entry-level market.

Lewis said the overall software approach will be to use HP OpenView Storage Area Management (SAM) suite as the software of choice going forward. He said Compaq's Storage Resource Management (SRM) technology will be added to increase OpenView's capabilities.

OmniBack II will become HP's strategic platform for data backup.

"We'll continue to partner for the best of breed software with Veritas, Legato, Computer Associates and CommVault," said Lewis "Backup is a mature technology and not one where customers are going to want a lot of transition."

However, HP's position on storage virtualization is still a bit murky.

"Our virtualization strategy is going to require us to have a lot of different technologies for a while," said Michael Feinberg, chief technology officer for HP's NSS.

He maintained that juggling different virtualization approaches did not constitute a non-decision, but that it represents a valid need for host-based, array-based and network-based virtualization.

HP will continue with the SanLink product (acquired from StorageApps) and continue with Compaq's VersaStor as its umbrella technology.

Ultimately SanLink and VersaStor will come together, said Feinberg.

If all goes as planned, HP said that at the end of three years the software architecture for its arrays will be the same, modular design from entry-level up through enterprise class systems.

Industry analyst and co-founder of the Data Mobility Group Inc., Nashua, N.H., John Webster said HP has everything from big data center arrays to virtualization technology to tape, but that it still has some decisions to make regarding product and personnel overlap.

"The only thing missing is a clearly articulated statement of where it's now going," Webster said.

Feinberg emphasized that today's announcements do not constitute the entire strategy, but just a product-level roadmap. He added that getting its enterprise strategies together is an ongoing process, but will be based on open architectures.

Lewis said that the similarities and differences in the product lines were evident going into the merger.

"Everyone saw [the synergies]," he said "We need to rationalize the product lines."

According to Lewis, HP has dealt with the apparent overlaps between the two company's hardware and software offerings. The NSS group, which consists of about 5,000 people, ultimately agreed upon a three-year roadmap for integrating its storage products.

"This is going to be about really pulling together and creating more synergies and product breadth," said Lewis.

While some products will eventually be phased out, Lewis said customer investments will be protected. He said HP is not going to discontinue any product that does not have a comparable or superior technology to replace it. For example, in areas like software where there are two different streams of products, HP will provide base licensing at no charge for any software migration the customer endures.

HP said that, as of now, the strategies for both companies really haven't changed. They are simply melding them together.

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