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Hewlett-Packard buys Ibrix for scale-out NAS; takes another step into clustered storage

Hewlett-Packard (HP) takes another step into clustered storage with file-system vendor Ibrix, after years of a partnership that provided storage for DreamWorks and Pixar.

Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co. today acquired its clustered file system partner Ibrix Inc., giving it a second scale-out network-attached storage (NAS) product to go with the PolyServe software it bought two years ago.

HP did not disclose financial terms of the deal, but said the transaction will likely close within 30 days, and Ibrix employees -- including president and CEO Milan Shetti -- will join the StorageWorks Division in Hewlett-Packard's Technology Solutions Group.

HP has resold Ibrix software with its storage-area network (SAN) systems, as well as with its ProLiant and BladeSystem servers since 2006. DreamWorks Animation has used a combination of Ibrix Fusion and HP hardware to render its animated movies. Ibrix also counts Pixar Animation Studios as a customer, and has sales partnerships with EMC Corp. and Dell Inc.

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Hewlett-Packard is collecting clustered storage vendors – it acquired NAS vendor PolyServe in 2007 and iSCSI block storage vendor LeftHand Networks Inc. last year.

There can be overlap between PolyServe software, which runs on HP's Extreme Data Storage scale-out NAS boxes, and Ibrix's Fusion. However, during a webinar to discuss the acquisition today, Jeff Hausman, vice president of HP's Unified Storage Group, and Shetti said PolyServe software is better for running applications such as transactional databases, while Fusion is more suited to high-performance computing industries such as media/entertainment and life sciences.

Ibrix customers tend to be organizations that need to access millions of files quickly in a single repository, Shetti said.

. Hausman said HP will release a complete roadmap after the Ibrix deal closes, but acknowledged Fusion would be available on the Extreme Data Storage platform.

"We're going to allow customers to run the Ibrix stack on all our hardware," Hausman said. "There's little overlap in the way PolyServe has gone to market and the way Ibrix has gone to market."

Greg Schulz, founder and senior analyst at Stillwater, Minn.-based StorageIO Group, said the acquisition makes sense considering the companies' relationship, and the emphasis in the industry on scale-out NAS and cloud storage.

"What took HP so long?" Schulz asked.

Ibrix Fusion as alternative to HP PolyServe

Schulz said making Ibrix an alternative to PolyServe on the Extreme Data Storage platform matches HP's strategy of letting customers run any operating system on their HP servers. "Now you only have one choice -- you can only run PolyServe," he said. "PolyServe makes sense for some, but others might need Ibrix for scale out, so run with it. HP has been getting its act together on the hardware side, but the question is 'What about software?' Now they're showing they want to be serious in scale-out NAS, bulk storage, Web 2.0 and cloud storage."

Others see the Ibrix acquisition as a way of heading off NetApp's long-delayed clustered NAS technology, which is available in its Data Ontap GX operating system but hasn't been integrated into its main Ontap OS.

"We believe this, along with the past acquisition of PolyServe in early 2007, indicates that it's likely HP is focusing on expanding its presence in the scalable file-system storage space through smaller acquisitions," wrote Aaron Rakers, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus Equity Research, in a note today to clients. "Ibrix would represent one of the small competitors to NetApp's Data Ontap GX and forthcoming converged Data Ontap 8.0 operating system technology, which provides global namespace support for scale-out environments." Rakers added that the Ibrix acquisition "could be viewed as a competitive move against Isilon's [Systems Inc.] scale-out file system architecture."

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