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HP announces iSCSI VTL for SMBs

HP's new iSCSI VTL devices include automated backup capabilities for users with fewer than four servers.

In a webcast Monday morning, Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) announced two new data protection devices for small and midsized businesses (SMB) based on its ProLiant servers.

The D2D110 and D2D120 virtual tape libraries (VTL) are ProLiant DL100 and DL300 series servers that come preassembled with 750 GB or 1.5 terabytes (TB) of SATA disk, respectively, in a RAID-5 configuration. The device, which emulates tape for up to four servers, plugs in to any Ethernet network. After asking for a network address, the device runs an automated configuration wizard for setup.

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Following setup, the user can run unattended daily backups to the disks inside, provided they are using a backup application that supports the device. HP is offering its Data Protector Express backup software -- a rebranding of Yosemite Technologies Inc.'s Yosemite Backup product -- bundled with the product for a fee and says the product is also compatible with Windows NT Express and Symantec's Backup Exec.

However, HP's Web site notes that Backup Exec 10d does not support iSCSI network devices using the Microsoft iSCSI Initiator software driver, which the D2D device uses to negotiate with systems connected to the LAN. "HP D2D Backup System customers using Backup Exec version 10.d must install an iSCSI host bus adapter in each target system on the LAN for proper usage," according to the Web site. Alternatively, users can also upgrade to Backup Exec 11d, which supports the initiator.

Pricing, Windows integration key

HP's claims of totally hands-free management remain to be proven, said John Webster, principal IT advisor with the Illuminata Group. But, he added, the product will still probably be attractive to small businesses, primarily because of price. "They're right on with their price point on this -- it seems pretty attractive," he said.

The product currently does not support integration with tape, but a software upgrade this year will add the ability to migrate data to a local LTO-2 drive in the box, according to Adam Thew, director of marketing in HP's StorageWorks division. For now, users must set up tape drives separately, which Thew encouraged for offsite disaster recovery purposes.

The D2D110 is priced at $1,999 without Data Protection Express software and $2,999 with the software bundled in. The D2D120 is priced at $2,999 without software and $3,999 with software. Both products are available through resellers, as well as directly through HP's Web site.

"This is a step up from the Best Buy marketing channel, somewhere between the network attached storage (NAS) device you can get off the shelf for backups and HP's all-in-one box," Webster said. "They're exploring how far downmarket they can go with backup devices."

Webster said that this product could have a number of future directions with software and firmware updates. "They could package it for digital-photo consumers along with one of their photo printers," he said. "Or it could be positioned as an email archiving device for SMBs -- they don't have as many compliance issues as the big guys, but there could be a market for it as SMBs look to avoid legal exposure."

HP is far from alone among the big players in attempting to reach SMBs with storage, but Webster said its consumer and PC background, as well as its relationship with Microsoft, make it the player to beat. "They're down there slugging away with Dell," Webster said. "They build with Microsoft compatibility and the Microsoft user community in mind."

Webster said that in his estimation, Windows users at the low end "judge products differently" from their enterprise counterparts with mixed operating system environments. "Automation is a big part of that," Webster said, as is another area HP doesn't yet have a story around with this product -- reporting tools. "I think that'll also be coming next," he said.

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