If you think making storage devices from different vendors coexist harmoniously in your datacentre is difficult, consider how baffling it must be for Hewlett-Packard to consolidate two distinct — and possibly overlapping — lines of storage products from premerger Compaq and HP.
You would think that the new HP would already have a full house of hardware and software storage solutions and no need for more from outside the company.
However, a recent torrent of announcements seems to indicate otherwise. Take, for instance, the issue of storage virtualisation. HP firmly believes that for enterprise class SANs, virtualisation should have its roots in the network. However, despite a large offering of servers and storage arrays, HP doesn’t have control of the switch technology needed to make that a reality.
Therefore, HP is strengthening ties with longtime partner Brocade and injecting HP VersaStor virtualisation intelligence into a new switch (part of the Brocade SilkWorm Fabric Application Platform) that Brocade will deliver later this year.
Incidentally, Brocade recently completed the acquisition of Rhapsody Networks and its technology to create fabric applications deemed instrumental to the SilkWorm platform and conditional for the co-development of a VersaStor-enabled switch.
HP is courting Cisco as well, pursuing joint development of features and smooth interoperability of popular Cisco networking gears with HP Utility Datacenter solutions.
When put together, these pieces fit into HP’s big picture, extending its VersaStor virtualisation, already available for major arrays, not only to the fabric but also to HP’s own CASA (Continuous Access Storage Appliance) line. CASA offers storage services such as snapshots, replication, and storage migration in a multivendor environment.
On the NAS side, Network Appliance is joining heads with Hitachi Data Systems and Dell is scaling its PowerVault on EMC arrays, while HP is strengthening its bond with Microsoft to intensify StorageWorks Windows Powered NAS appliances.
You won’t have to travel far to see those solutions in action because the two companies have planned a marketing tour of major US and Canadian cities beginning this month.
Also making a buzz is Sun Microsystems, with a virtualisation platform that doesn’t reside in the servers, the F switch, or the array itself. The virtualisation technology acquired from Pirus is almost ready, yet strangely Sun will not initially sell it as a product; rather, its professional service partners will use it to offer enterprises storage services.
This scenario probably exists because the virtualisation technology initially will be only a single-purpose device delivering snapshot functions across arrays for all vendors. In the interim, Sun is working on bringing replication functionality to the virtualisation platform.
What does this mean in the near term? So far, not a lot — but it does show that vendors are still trying to figure out just how to make virtualisation a reality. Once that reality arrives, users will reap the benefits.