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HP slots new disk array into EVA line

HP's 4400 addition to its Enterprise Virtual Array line is seen as an attempt to broaden the array's appeal, perhaps to customers who aren't primarily HP shops.

Hewlett-Packard Co. brushed up its Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA) product line with a new model, the EVA 4400, which fits between the recently launched MSA2000 and the rest of the EVA series.

The EVA 4400 product will eventually replace the EVA 4100 disk array that HP rolled out last June. Pricing starts at $15,000, which is 20% less than the starting price of the EVA 4100, according to HP SAN director of marketing Kyle Fitze. Unlike the MSA products, the EVA 4400 includes only dual controllers and support for local and remote replication software. It also has features, such as setup wizards, meant to boost its ease of use.

Luke Kannel, senior Windows server specialist for Luther Midelfort, a Wisconsin affiliate of Minnesota's Mayo Clinic and longtime EVA user, said his organization has been looking to lower-end arrays to cut costs as technology for such boxes has gotten more robust. Previously, the company had standardized on EVA 8000 boxes, but Kannel said he realized he was "overbuying."

"The 4400 is a great middle ground between the MSA and the EVA," Kannel said. "It integrates the dual controllers and replication that differentiate the EVA, while keeping a price point similar to the MSA."

Other new features in the 4400 include end-to-end 4 Gbit Fibre Channel (FC) and support for 1 TB SATA drives, which boosts the maximum capacity to 96 TB.

HP isn't breaking any ground with the system. Competitors have already offered end-to-end 4 Gbit FC and support for 1 TB disks, and HP has offered setup wizards for other products. However, analysts said that the significance of the announcement is in the way HP is reframing the EVA to try to broaden its appeal – perhaps to customers who aren't primarily HP shops.

"We spend a huge amount of time talking about startups with neat technology," said Mark Peters, an Enterprise Strategy Group analyst. "It would be nice to see HP selling standalone storage outside the HP base."

The new EVA will support QLogic Corp.'s 8 Gbit FC host bus adapters (HBAs) and switches through a simple SAN connection kit, similar to a 4 Gbit version HP announced last year. The new EVA will also support Dynamic Capacity Manager, a feature announced last year with the 4100 model that supports a flexible provisioning mechanism in Windows Server 2008.

It's a good sign that HP is "future-proofing" its boxes, according to IDC analyst Natalya Yeshkova. "This is a fairly routine upgrade to their systems, but they can say they have a few things competitors don't have yet, and their system is ready for upcoming technology refreshes," she said.

Kannel said he's had HP on-site to demonstrate the new EVA model and will look to bring it into his shop, but said he'd like to see HP add thin-provisioning support beyond the Dynamic Capacity Manager. "You still need to allocate the full amount of storage [with DCM]," he said. "I'd like to see them offer thin provisioning more in line with what else is out there."

"The user must configure the disk group and create initial LUNs [with DCM]," an HP spokesperson wrote in an email to "Traditional thin provisioning also requires the user to create virtual LUNs and thin-provisioning pools." HP also said it is considering adding support for more typical thin provisioning.

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