HP steels SAN strategy

HP steels SAN strategy

In twin storage moves, Hewlett-Packard last week announced an acquisition aimed at boosting its ability to manage multivendor storage-area networks (SAN) and plans to roll out a complete line of disk arrays and related products based on the emerging iSCSI standard by early next year.

The deal to acquire StorageApps should make HP a more attractive player in the SAN arena by offering IT administrators tools to knit storage devices from various vendors into a single pool, according to IT managers and industry pundits.

HP's bid for StorageApps, a maker of storage management software and appliances, is valued at about US$350 million in a stock-swap transaction. StorageApps will become a wholly owned subsidiary of HP.

At least one IT professional sees the HP deal presenting a potential opportunity to exploit more of his company's storage capacity. Bryan Province, a senior systems analyst and storage administrator at Caterpillar, said the industrial machine maker utilises about 50 percent of its storage capacity now, using EMC's storage management software. Province said he would like to expand to 70 - 80 percent of storage capacity.

"We're looking at incorporating other vendors' products into our SAN . . . to create a heterogeneous SAN," he said. "It would be a timesaver to go to a single tool to manage our storage."

Ron Johnson, an analyst at Evaluator Group, said the deal will give HP far more mature storage management software than it currently offers, placing it ahead of rivals such as IBM and Compaq. "This will shake up IBM and Compaq," said Johnson. "I don't see that IBM or Compaq has an appliance that does this."

The StorageApps purchase will also give HP the lead in storage virtualisation capabilities, allowing users to pool and reallocate disk capacity from different arrays, said Johnson. That's emerging as one of the hottest applications in the storage management market, he said, because it enables users to fully utilise their storage resources and get more bang for their storage buck.

HP offers storage virtualisation software for some of its disk arrays, but lacks an enterprise-level product to support devices made by multiple storage vendors. Both IBM and Compaq are expected to roll out storage virtualisation offerings for multivendor SANs later this year.

Meanwhile, HP disclosed last week, its planned iSCSI line will mirror the Fibre Channel-based storage devices sold under its Federated Storage Area Management product suite. That includes 15 to 20 disk arrays, storage networking switches, host bus adapters and other devices, HP officials said. The iSCSI-based products should be ready by the first quarter of next year.

The iSCSI technology, also referred to as SCSI over IP, is aimed at allowing users to take block-level SCSI data and wrap it in TCP/IP packets for transmission across the Internet. That enables end users on remote LANs to access corporate data via the Internet's basic communications protocol.

IBM began shipping iSCSI-based storage devices in June. However, the Internet Engineering Task Force is still working to finalise an iSCSI standard, a process not expected to be completed until later this year.

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