HP steps up federated storage strategy

Hewlett-Packard Co. Monday unleashed 18 storage products and services as the company continues to bolster its Federated Storage Area Management (FSAM) strategy.

Paul Patterson, network storage business manager for HP Canada in Mississauga, Ont., said FSAM is more about giving customers a storage framework than just a plethora of products.

“When we’re thinking about storage, we’re thinking about anything to do with storage,” he said. “Customers want to be able implement quicker, they want to be able to scale up, scale out, to put different storage devices in multiple locations for recovery, expediency and security. We wanted to give them the ability to do that.”

HP introduced its FSAM strategy in February, and has been incrementally adding to it since. “This is a live and working strategy,” said Patterson. “The products we’re introducing today really delivers on the FSAM promise. (Customers) are going to have the ability to manage their storage from one central point and also reduce the amount of IT infrastructure they have to put toward managing data.”

Data is going up exponentially, said Patterson, “but you’re not going to add resources in the same way.” It’s not just about adding a few more terabytes of disk space, he said.

Highlights of the latest offerings cover data protection and recovery solutions, storage consolidation services and storage management.

Of note is HP OpenView Omniback II 4.1, software which enables customers to eliminate data recovery windows and optimize uptime. The software automates data protection but keeps data accessible and is compatible with most operating, library and disk systems. “It works not just in an HP environment, it works in an heterogeneous environment,” said Patterson.

In the past, he said, vendors have come out saying they will support a heterogeneous environment, as long as it’s theirs. “We can support a heterogeneous environment and we can do it across multiple products.”

Patterson said one of the most important elements of the latest FSAM chapter is SANLink, a product that came with HP’s recent acquisition of StorageApps. “What that product does is take the infrastructure customers have today and gives them the ability to still use that equipment . . . and also use other products that they want to want to bolt into it.”

What’s particularly notable about SANLink, said Jennifer Ewen, senior analyst for Evans Research, based in Midland, Ont., is that it’s integrated with HP’s other storage products to provide dynamic allocation of storage resources. “That’s the Holy Grail of virtualization,” she said. Other vendors such as DataCore and FalconStor have virtualization software, but Ewen believes HP is the first major vendor to include a virtualization tool with its storage products.

Overall, she said, HP’s FSAM is a page taken from the IBM Global Services story and giving HP more clout as a services company. “HP seems to be taking a platform- and vendor-agnostic approach to services. More power to them.”

Ewen said HP still has a little catching up to do with Compaq in the Canadian storage market, but Compaq tends to be more comfortable using Compaq-only equipment. “The edge HP has is its platform-independent view.”

Alan Freedman, research manager for servers and storage at IDC Canada in Toronto, said HP’s FSAM is the right method of attacking the complexity of storage for its customers. “What they’re focusing on is bringing customers manageability and interoperability,” he said. “These are the keys to the storage market as a whole.”

What’s driving storage offerings such as HP’s FSAM, said Freedman, is that customers are looking for increased accessibility to their data, but “it adds a lot of complexity to their storage and IT infrastructure.”

FSAM also deals with the issue of heterogeneous environments, he added. “The reality is people have different systems, and they may change their minds and their allegiances.”

As a vendor, said Freedman, HP has an advantage. Because it is a multi-product/services provider, it has an installed base of customers that will likely take a look at its new storage offerings. However, vendors such as HP that tout interoperability between different systems are often perceived to be pushing their brands over others, he said. For vendors primarily focused on storage, their foot in the door will also be the ability to interoperate. “A lot of companies are focusing on the same goals.”

Said Ewen, “Specialty storage vendors will have more of an uphill climb when with entrenched accounts.”

Of all HP’s 18 products and services, Freedman also said the most important is SANLink. “This speaks directly to interoperability.”

The true test will be how easily HP’s solutions can be implemented. “In theory, this is right on track.”

Another roadblock for storage adoption will be the cost in general for products and services, said Ewen. “IT budgets are static.” This could lead to a price war for vendors, much like the PC price war that has been raging, lead by the likes of Dell. “It could get nasty for vendors.”

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