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HP storage chief lukewarm on virtualization

Bob Schultz talks to about the next EVA, virtual tape, iSCSI, virtualization, and competing against EMC.

Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) is a company in transition, but it would like you to know that storage remains one of the company's top priorities. Certainly, storage has been one of the few bright spots in HP's recent quarterly earnings reports. It may get even brighter, thanks to large infusions of cash earmarked for additional "storage specialists" and marketing. This week, sat down with Bob Schultz, senior vice president and general manager for HP's Network Storage Solutions, and talked to him about the company's storage strategy, its competition, and what to look out for in the next couple of months.

SearchStorage: What's going on in HP's storage land these days?

Schultz: We're executing against our storage grid strategy and have four grid products already. Reference Information Storage System (RISS) is for e-mail and office documents. The Scalable File System based on the Linux Lustre file system is targeted at high-performance computing environments that have huge bandwidth requirements. The xp12000, that fronts the MSA, can give you up to 30 petabytes. We also have a new medical image archiving application for PACS systems that we recently announced with Bycast.

SearchStorage: Those are all really different systems. Do they have anything in common?

Schultz: Well, the concepts are in common, although the hardware is configured differently. But in the grid architecture that we've laid out, the hardware will eventually converge, and the 'cells' powering the grid will be the same.

SearchStorage: What's in store in the shorter term?

Schultz: This week, we'll be announcing the convergence of our server and storage management. Starting in March, the Systems Insight Manager that ships with our ProLiant and HP-UX servers will feature Storage Essentials 1.0, a management package that we've OEM'ed from AppIQ. It does discovery and alerts. Customers will also be able to purchase optional provisioning, chargeback, performance management and application monitoring modules. This really changes the economics of storage resource management -- now the resource manager is free.

In May we'll be hosting a storage conference for U.S. customers and another one in Europe. We've also publicly said that we'll be announcing a refresh of the EVA line in the May time frame.

SearchStorage: What are some other technologies you're considering?

Schultz: You'll probably see us announce iSCSI systems for entry-level systems. Virtual tape is also something that we know pretty well from our tape business, and we're looking into it.

SearchStorage: What about  virtualization? Your competitors are making a lot of hay about it these days.

Schultz: Well, we used to make a lot of hay about virtualization too. What we've found is that when a customer asks for virtualization, it's usually because they want to extend the life of an existing storage investment a little bit longer. The number of customers that want virtualization to build a pool of heterogeneous storage – I can take all their phone calls.

SearchStorage: HP's storage business has gone through some dark times in '04. To what do you attribute those less-than-spectacular results?

Schultz: What we found is that we were winning deals but we weren't in enough deals, so we are going to increase the number of feet on the street and hire 25% more storage specialists. Also, we found that we need to raise our storage profile and ring the bell. Server and storage marketing has increased five fold.

SearchStorage: What were some of the high points of HP's storage business this year?

Schultz: According to IDC, HP's NAS business grew 53% in the third quarter, compared to 14% for the market as a whole. The growth in that segment comes largely from sales of [sub $10,000 systems] Proliant Storage Server and a line of Windows Storage Server-powered systems.

SearchStorage: What about file services for the xp lines? Can your customers just buy [Network Appliance NAS gateways] gFilers?

Schultz: Not from us. It's interesting, NetApp likes to compare its NAS business to ours, but we don't even play in the same market. They sell systems that are $25,000 and up, and our business is in the $2,000 to $8,000 range. It will be interesting when we play in the same market.

SearchStorage: Who's your biggest competitor?

Schultz: EMC

SearchStorage: What's your competitive advantage over EMC?

Schultz: There are many. I look at our product lineup and don't see any holes against theirs. If they're Symm customers, we can show them the xp12000; if they're looking at a CX [Clariion] we can say, 'Have you looked at the EVA?' If they're looking at Centera, we say to them, wouldn't you like to be able to retrieve a document someday?' and show them RISS.

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