HP And Dell Quick To Benefit From Storage Acquisitions

It is noteworthy that both Hewlett-Packard and Dell, which each bought young, progressive storage companies last year, have taken their prized new IP and made it the centrepiece of their storage strategies only months after closing the deals.

We are not sure exactly what that says about the older storage products those well-established systems makers have been selling for years, but it does indicate the term “freshening up” was probably used by the buyers at some point in deciding to do both transactions.

Midrange Cross-Pollination

HP announced this week that it is cross-pollinating software and services from the $2.35 billion (£1.43bn) 3PAR acquisition into its older array systems. On the other hand, Dell – which paid a mere $940 million (£572m) for Compellent – is so enthralled with what it got that it is rebranding its entire storage strategy after Compellent’s Liquid Storage identifier.

At its first all-storage customer and partner conference in Orlando this week (Dell Storage Forum, which continues through June 11) that combined the former Compellent and EqualLogic events, Dell introduced some new systems and a refresh of its old standby, PowerVault.

New-product and other highlights of the Fluid Data Architecture line-up:

Demonstration of 16Gbps Fibre Channel infrastructure interoperability at the show. Dell demonstrated compatibility between a Dell Compellent Storage Centre SAN with a Brocade 6510 16Gb Fibre Channel switch and a Brocade 1860 16Gb Fabric Adapter. Dell said it will have 16Gbps Fibre Channel offerings available this fall.

Dell PowerVault MD3600f/MD3620f adds Fibre Channel to its menu choices. Key features: Eight 8Gbps Fibre Channel ports (four per controller); additional capacity can be added up to a maximum of 96 hard drives via the PowerVault MD1200 and/or MD1220 enclosures; users can mix 3.5-inch and 2.5-inch enclosures behind their base units for drive tiering; data protection options include snapshots, virtual disk copy and remote replication services.

Dell unveiled its first unified Dell EqualLogic platform. The EqualLogic FS7500 adds scalable network-attached storage (NAS) capability to the EqualLogic product line – making it a high-performance, scale-out unified storage for midsize deployments. The FS7500 uses the Dell Scalable File System, which incorporates features formerly found only at the high end – including snapshots, advanced caching, load balancing and multi-threading for fast I/O processing. Other features: N-way scalability with automated failover and a single namespace; scale-out CIFS and NFS support; scale a single share up to 510TB.

Dell EqualLogic software upgraded to v5.1. Key features: DCB Support is designed to improve quality of service with consistent and even traffic flow in a converged SAN/LAN networking fabric; enhanced load balancing capability provides the ability to automatically balance storage traffic between EqualLogic arrays; enhanced thin provisioning awareness with VMware vSphere 4.1 reduces recovery time and helps mitigate the risk of potential data loss.

The new products will become available later this summer.

HP’s Hot Word Is ‘Converged’

Hewlett-Packard is going in storage where many systems makers have trod before. The difference is that this is “The HP Way” of building and selling storage systems.

Literally, the company is going by the book, so to speak, by not necessarily innovating, but in acquiring the best IT it can get its hands on and setting a general course that will satisfy its myriad customers of all sizes, sectors and locations.

In this case, we are talking about so-called “converged” storage. Cisco Systems, Dell, IBM and a few others have been marketing these new-gen systems – in Cisco’s case, for more than two years – that put more and more functionality into 1U and 2U rack-mounted servers and storage arrays.

At its Discover conference this week in Las Vegas (which continues through June 10), HP introduced a long list of new data centre-related products and services, most of which are preceded by the term “converged”.

It is like the whole IT world is falling in upon itself, which is the actual definition of the word. What it really means is that IT hardware continues to get bigger (in terms of capability), faster and better, as it has for three generations – while also getting physically smaller, denser and less power-hungry at the same time.

A dichotomy? Certainly. But that is the story of IT in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. So what follows here is a listing of the major new storage products from HP. If you want a good look at Discover conference news about energy-efficient servers, virtualisation and cloud strategy, see stories written by eWEEK’s Jeff Burt.

HP has refreshed its 10-year-old flagship EVA (Enterprise Virtual Array) midrange storage array line-up, which has about 100,000 units currently deployed, HP Vice President of Storage Marketing Tom Joyce told eWEEK. The company also introduced new 3PAR- and IBRIX-based arrays, which came from acquisitions during the last two years.

“This will be the fifth generation of the EVA, so it’s been a very successful line for us for a long time,” Joyce said. “We’ve been saying that we’re committed to it for the markets that it serves, so this is the proof in the pudding.”

The newest EVA is the P6000, which includes thin provisioning and dynamic LUN migration software along with 8Gbit Fibre Channel, 10Gbit iSCSI and FCoE (Fibre Channel over Ethernet) support.

Thin Provisioning Up To PAR

The most important new feature added to the EVA is indeed thin-provisioning, which is not a surprise because this is exactly the strong point that 3PAR brought to HP when it was acquired in a bidding war with Dell in September 2010. The trickle-down in storage features took several months, but it is now available.

It is well-known that several competing systems providers have already offered TP for months – or even years.

HP also is introducing iSCSI connectivity in the EVA, which has been cable-bound to Fibre Channel all these years. iSCSI certainly is not news unto itself, but it is in this instance; many of the EVAs have been churning away for years in data centres with their FC networks and have not needed a connectivity upgrade. iSCSI in this product simply gives users another choice if they are in the process of upgrading.

Finally, the third-biggest new feature in the EVA is dynamic tiering – another standard feature on many other modern storage systems. HP again is playing catch-up here, but it knows that many companies in the mid-range market are just now getting into these former high-end storage IT features.

It is also true that conservative-natured IT shops, not needing to refresh their equipment in the last couple of years, also waited for a while to see how these new-fangled storage advancements were going to work in production before deciding to invest. Those companies, seeing that a major established player like HP is moving these features into their market, are no doubt more comfortable that things such as TP, dynamic tiering and iSCSI actually work and will not fall apart on them.

HP’s Converged Storage architecture and portfolio integrates HP Store360 scale-out software with BladeSystem and ProLiant server hardware.

Storage Management Services

The company’s services arm also has integrated 3PAR storage IP into the overall catalogue, which offers storage-management services that allow clients to “flex” their storage needs up and down with changes in demand, Joyce said. This service provides 3PAR in a utility storage model and has key efficiency features such as thin provisioning and autonomic data tiering.

Other new storage packages include:

HP X5000 G2 network storage arrays, built atop HP BladeSystems, are all automated and can be deployed in minutes, Joyce said. Top capacity in a 3U chassis is 32TB; it also features built-in file deduplication that can substantially reduce capacity requirements. It also comes with it native support for the Server Message Block 2.1 protocol and seamless integration with Windows Active Directory.

HP X9000 IBRIX network storage systems optimise retention of unstructured data with new compliance features and the capacity for more than 1 million snapshots, Joyce said. It features the new PACS (Picture Archive Communications System), that speeds access and retrieval of massive volumes of information needed for effective health-care diagnoses. To simplify implementation, the X9000 has been certified with GE Centricity, Agfa Impax, Sectra PACS and McKesson Horizon.

The X9000 IBRIX also can serve as an archive by providing unlimited capacity to retain email, SharePoint, multimedia and other file-based data, since it consolidates unstructured data from any source into a single repository. It has been certified with Symantec Enterprise Vault, iTernity iCAS, Quantum StorNext and CommVault Simpana, Joyce said.

“HP places a lot of emphasis on 3PAR as a centrepiece in its greater storage strategy, and that’s hardly a surprise given what it cost [$2.35 billion],” analyst Charles King of Pund-IT wrote in his weekly advisory June 8.

“On the upside, HP has toned down its 3PAR rhetoric since this year’s analyst conference, and the company’s storage portfolio is broader and better balanced than it has been for some time. On the downside, there’s little evidence that 3PAR will provide HP the means to move the needle hugely in its storage market share. Absent surprising or unusual developments, 3PAR’s $2.35 billion acquisition cost continues to look steep.”

These systems all will become available later this summer.