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Compaq pushes storage product despite pending merge

A possible merge with Hewlett-Packard isn't preventing Compaq from moving forward with new products. The company recently announced two high-end systems in its StorageWorks product line.

Compaq Computer Corp., does not have a crystal ball, but it's betting that despite the pending merger with Hewlett-Packard Co., the future is bright for its StorageWorks product line.

Compaq, headquartered in Houston, Texas, is continuing its push as a storage company with the debut of two new products: the high-end StorageWorks Enterprise Virtual Array storage system and the StorageWorks NAS Executor E7000, an enterprise-class NAS storage system that integrates NAS and SAN architectures. Both products represent the debut of Compaq's VersaStor virtualization technology, which was announced last year.

Compaq has also brought its NAS products, which were previously sold with its server family, under the StorageWorks brand.

According to Roger Archibald, vice president for enterprise storage at Compaq, the new Enterprise Virtual Array is a modular, end-to-end 2GB Fibre Channel storage subsystem designed for open systems platforms and can scale up to 17TB of capacity.

Archibald said the new virtual array separates the limitations of the physical storage by creating a virtual disk layer. "It simplifies a lot of the management and improves drive capacity utilization," he said. "We believe that we can push utilization to 70-80% through virtualization."

Within the Enterprise Virtual Array, all capacity is pooled and presented to the administrator as virtual disks. These virtual disks are dynamically allocated and managed by high-level attributes. The pool capacity and virtual disks can be dynamically expanded. Automatic data striping and load leveling allow performance scaling.

Compaq expects the Enterprise Virtual Array to compete formidably with the biggest boxes in the industry, including Hitachi Data Systems' Lightning 9900, IBM's Shark and EMC's Symmetrix.

While the future of Compaq's storage line after the company completes its expected merger with Hewlett-Packard is uncertain at best, Archibald said the customer need not be wary of buying Compaq storage.

"As we look at the new company the strategy doesn't have to change," said Archibald. "StorageWorks will only get stronger."

So what is Compaq doing to put the confused customer's mind at ease? Archibald said each storage sale is backed with assurance that whatever storage products the customer decides to invest in will be supported going forward. And if any given product succumbs to natural selection due to the merger, there will be extra steps taken to quell customer ire.

"We're offering a guarantee that if the product they buy becomes obsolete we will pay restitution," Archibald said.

According to a report from Framingham, Mass-based analyst firm International Data Corp., the storage business of the combined companies will be stronger, though smaller, than the sum of the two companies before the acquisition. IDC cautioned that the distraction of the of the integration will increase near-term uncertainty for employees, partners, and customers.

IDC said if HP elects to sell the full range of Compaq's disk storage systems, it would immediately gain an architecturally integrated product line and an installed base of Compaq customers that have taken a shine to the StorageWorks brand.

IDC foresees no hardware integration problems except for the high-end mainframe environment in which HP OEMs HDS' Lightning and Compaq OEMs the Enterprise Storage Server from IBM. IDC believes the HDS relationship will likely be the survivor.

Let us know what you think about the story, e-mail Kevin Komiega, assistant news editor


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