HP offers low-cost SAN gear

HP is adding cheaper disks, the latest Brocade switches and bigger tape drives to its StorageWorks MSA product line to give end users more options for deploying low-cost SANs.

Under a company-wide initiative to cater to budget-conscious small and medium-sized business (SMB) users, Hewlett Packard Co. (HP) is packing its StorageWorks SAN products with low-cost disk, new switches and bigger tape drives to take the high prices out of migrating to networked storage.

However, aside from a pair of $5,000 entry-level Fibre Channel switches, the new products aren't really new, they're upgraded versions of existing StorageWorks hardware that "compete well in the SMB market," according to Neal Clapper, vice president and general manager of HP's online storage business.

Specifically, Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP will add support for low cost Serial ATA (SATA) disk drives to its StorageWorks Modular Smart Array (MSA) family. Industry experts say SATA technology is roughly 80% cheaper than Fibre Channel disk, but the dramatic price difference does not necessarily mean the MSA1000 will be 80% cheaper.

"It is my impression that pricing will be equivalent to the MSA1000 in regards to hardware while allowing the SATA drives to be the differentiator providing the cost saving over current MSA family arrays," said Jamie Gruener, a principal analyst for the Yankee Group Inc., Boston, Mass. "The idea is to add additional capacity at the same pricing level of the existing platform."

As part of the new SMB offering, HP claims to be the first to offer Brocade Communications Systems Inc.'s newest Fibre Channel SAN switches. Dubbed the HP StorageWorks B-series switches, users can choose between 8-port and 16-port models, which, according to HP, Brocade will call the SilkWorm 3250 and 3850 respectively.

Rounding out the SMB package is the StorageWorks DAT 72x6 tape autoloader for backup and recovery. With up to 432 GB of storage capacity, One-Button Disaster Recovery, library and tape tools for troubleshooting as well as a feature called Tapealert for monitoring the drive and media.

Products in the MSA family will support both SATA and traditional SCSI disk enclosures and can scale up to 24 TB in a standalone configuration with native Fibre Channel connectivity. The new HP StorageWorks MSA offerings are expected to be available in the second quarter of 2004.

Estimated pricing for the HP StorageWorks B-series SAN switches begins at $5000 with expected availability in April 2004.

The HP StorageWorks DAT 72x6 tape autoloader, shipping this month, will run $2,799 for the internal model and $2,999 for the external model.

HP isn't the only vendor to realize that the cost of networked storage needs to come down. Gruener said "This year's focus on [small and medium-sized businesses] suggests that vendors like HP, Dell and others will need to not only focus more aggressively on packaging, but to figure out how to lower pricing to be more attractive to the market."

"It is also clear that customers here will be looking for more management tools that are simple and intuitive and right now that appears to be the largest stumbling block that all vendors still need to address," he said.

HP launched the StorageWorks MSA storage family last November with the aim of making its entry-level pricing below EMC Corp.'s CX200, IBM's Fast-T200 and Dell Inc.'s direct-attached high-availability package.

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