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HP sticks with Hitachi for high-end storage array

Hewlett-Packard is launching is version of Hitachi Data System’s new VSP system today, which should end speculation that HP will sever its OEM deal with Hitachi’s parent company for its enterprise storage platform.

HP is dropping the XP brand for its enterprise system, instead calling it the HP StorageWorks P9500 Disk Array. That’s part of HP’s new naming structure, where the MSA became the StorageWorks P2000, LeftHand iSCSI SANs became P4000 and the EVA turned into the P6400 and P8400. But the P9500 is a continuation of HP’s OEM deal with Hitachi Japan (not HDS).

“It’s still XP, but it’s called the P9500,” HP StorageWorks VP Tom Joyce said.

HP’s acquisition of 3PAR for $2.35 billion raised the question of whether it would end its Hitachi OEM deal. 3PAR positions its InServ T-Class arrays as a direct competitor to the XP line, as well as enterprise systems from HDS, EMC and IBM. But 3PAR lacks mainframe connectivity found in the XP/P9500, USP/VSP, EMC Symmetrix, and IBM DS8000, and that’s reason enough for HP to maintain its Hitachi OEM deal.

“It’s premature for us to talk publicly about 3PAR because we haven’t closed it [the deal closed today], and we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves,” Joyce said. “But a lot of customers need mainframe capability and this [P9500] has it. A lot of customers have made an investment in XP and we want to keep those customers happy.”

What else about the P9500can keep customers happy? Joyce pointed to its use of Intel architecture as a key to HP’s converged infrastructure strategy and the automatic sub-LUN tiering capability built into the new architecture. HP, which sells its own management software with the XP/P9500, also has new metered licensing software for the P9500.

HP will eventually have to answer questions about where it will position its 3PAR products. When HP first bid for 3PAR, HP storage chief Dave Donatelli said it could fit in the midrange. HP’s midrange EVA has been losing market share and people in the industry say it lacks the features of its competitors, most notably the EMC Clariion. Still, the EVA has a large installed base and HP wants to keep those customers happy, too.

David Floyer, CTO of analyst firm Wikibon, said 3PAR’s arrays are not sufficient to replace HP’s enterprise platform.

“3PAR is not tier one,” he said. “It makes everything work well, but it’s not the box you want if you have a huge database that is temperamental and you have to throw everything at it to work well.”