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HP upgrades its enterprise array with XP7

Hitachi Data Systems wasn’t the only vendor to launch a new enterprise SAN array this week. Hewlett-Packard also brought out its XP7.

That’s not a coincidence, because the XP7 and the HDS Virtual Storage Platform (VSP) G1000 use the same hardware architecture. HP has been licensing the technology from Hitachi for 15 years, and brings out its enterprise arrays at the same time as HDS.

The dual rollout raises two questions for HP. First, what’s the difference between the two arrays, and how does the XP7 fit alongside HP’s own 3PAR StoreServ family in HP’s enterprise strategy?

HP people can be touchy about the first question. They refer to the HDS deal as a technology partnership rather than a straight OEM deal. As HP storage and social media expert Calvin Zito wrote on his blog this week:

“One of my big pet peeves in when people say that we rebadge an HDS array. That couldn’t be further from the truth and I dare say that HP has made far more contributions to the XP platform over the years because of the technology agreement with Hitachi Ltd.”

HP brings its software and firmware to the array, adding features such as Performance Advisor, HP advanced clustering features and integration with HP servers. However, these features are overshadowed by Hitachi’s storage virtualization capabilities that allow the arrays to support systems from any major storage vendor and the new Hitachi flash modules  that also work with the XP7.

Most of HP’s storage focus is on the 3PAR platform, which spans from the midrange into the enterprise. That is HP’s best-selling storage system and fits into large implementations, so why sell the XP7 to compete against itself? The simplest reason is mainframe connectivity. The XP7/VSP G1000 IP goes back to the days when large storage systems were almost always connected to mainframes. 3PAR, which came along in the early 2000s, was designed for web and cloud hosting companies.

“We recognize that customers and the industry is going through a transformation from reliable robust legacy applications to new styles of IT-as-a-service, cloud-based virtual environment,” said Kyle Fitze, HP’s director for XP storage. ”Customers in some cases can’t move that fast because there are challenges around business needs and the ability to introduce new technology in a seamless way.

“XP is for conservative mission critical customers with expectations of high performance and low latency. StoreServ is for customers re-architecting their data centers, changing applications and moving to a services-oriented model.”

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