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HP adds QLogic switches; looks for storage rebound

It’s no secret that the relationship between Hewlett-Packard and Cisco has deteriorated now that Cisco is selling its own server product, the Unified Computing System (UCS). Like IBM and Dell, HP has been lining up other Fibre Channel and Ethernet switch partners, including a $2.7 billion acquisition of 3COM.

So today’s news that HP is now selling QLogic 8 Gbps 5800V and 5802V stackable switches under the HP brand as the HP SN6000 certainly is no surprise. One Silicon Valley blog directly linked the announcement with Cisco’s decision to drop HP as a certified channel partner in April.

While the rift between Cisco and HP is real, the direct link between QLogic and Cisco here is probably exaggerated a bit. The SN6000 is a FC edge switch, and Cisco doesn’t even have an 8 Gbps FC edge switch. Cisco’s bread-and-butter in the FC space is the MDS9000 director, and QLogic doesn’t sell director switches. HP’s new QLogic switches are really an alternative to edge switches from Brocade, which HP continues to offer through its long-standing OEM deal.

But the OEM deal opens the door for QLogic – predominantly a FC HBA vendor – as a switch player. HP StorageWorks product manager Charles Vallhonrat says the QLogic switches have been qualified on all HP storage systems. The 20-port switches can be stacked without requiring dedicated ports for inter-switch links (ISLs), making it easier and less expensive to expand. Vallhonrat says he expects customers who want to start small and grow their SANs will prefer the QLogic switches.

“I think it will be driven by customers’ growth needs,” he said. “They don’t have to buy everything up front. We have Brocade customers who want to buy 40 ports or 80 ports to start, and we have a switch for that. If they want to grow as they go along, this [QLogic] is an ideal product for that.”

As for Cisco’s dumping HP as a partner, Vallhonrat said “from the storage level, we’re moving forward with Cisco as well as other partners.”

HP’s new FC switch follows its release of two low-end storage systems earlier this week – the next generation of its entry level MSA and LeftHand iSCSI platforms. But HP had bad news for storage when it reported earnings Wednesday. During an otherwise good quarter, storage sales declined 3% year-over-year and sequentially, including what CEO Mark Hurd called “very mediocre” sales of its midrange EVA systems.

Hurd says HP did well with its LeftHand and direct attached storage, but not its midrange and higher-end systems. But he insists storage is a priority.

“We have our top guys working on it,” Hurd said when asked what he’s doing to jump start the storage business. “We believe we now have a better lineup than we have had before and we believe we have a team that’s capable of helping us build the answer.”

That storage team is now led by Dave Donatelli, who jumped from EMC to HP last year. HP is expected to upgrade the EVA this year, and its XP enterprise storage platform is also due for a refresh. All of which means it’s worth keeping a close watch on HP in 2010.

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