The new HP: Questions remain over storage strategy

The new HP faces a number of challenges in assimilating storage products from Compaq and moving users on to its new storage...

The new HP faces a number of challenges in assimilating storage products from Compaq and moving users on to its new storage roadmap. Can it succeed?

HP has formed a $4bn Network Storage Solution division charged with developing a single, open standard-based product line from the combined HP and Compaq product and technology base.

The new company's strength, according to Gartner analyst Robin Burke, is in the mid-market storage arena, where the former Compaq was a clear market leader, providing storage area network (SAN) and network attached storage (NAS) for Unix, Internet and Windows systems.

Compaq had a European market share of 56.9% of units shipped in 2000, according to Gartner. Its nearest rival, Sun, had 11.7% of the market.

The new HP is weakest in the high-end storage arena, said Burke. EMC dominates this market, providing mainframe and data centre storage systems.

Olaf Swantee, head of HP Europe's Network Storage solution division, told that a aim of the new company's strategy was to migrate users onto storage platforms with better price/performance and allow users to "be able to pool storage into a network through a storage utility".

The product roadmap of the new HP will see a number of storage families merged or dropped, Swantee said.

At the low end, the former Compaq's MSA1000 box would provide departmental users with a low-cost upgrade from traditional departmental file servers to an entry-level SAN, providing users with "a SAN in a box".

Tape technology remains a challenge for HP. The company plans to support both Linear Tape-Open (LTO), a high-performance format popular in Europe and Super Digital Linear Tape (SDLT), which is compatible with the existing DLT (Digital Linear Tape) format.

"It will take a year to make libraries compatible between LTO and SDLT," Swantee said.

The final segment of HP's storage strategy is storage management. Swantee said the company would be developing HP's OpenView Storage Area Management family.

HP plans to include some features of Compaq's SANWorks tool, which is not being developed further, in the OpenView product.

"Our software development focus will be on storage management, replication, backup/restore and virtualisation," said Swantee.

Product roadmap
Enterprise storage
- In the enterprise market, the pre-merger HP XP family of single-box (monolithic) storage will remain.

Mid-range storage - This will comprise the former Compaq Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA), a modular storage product line.

Entry-level storage - The starting point for HP's storage family is moving departmental users on to centralised departmental storage using Compaq's MSA1000 technology "SAN in a box" technology.

Tape technology - HP plans to support both Linear Tape-Open (LTO), a high-performance format popular in Europe and Super Digital Linear Tape (SDLT) that is compatible with the existing DLT (Digital Linear Tape) format

Storage management - OpenView Storage Area Management will become the preferred tool for managing SANs and will take on features of Compaq's StorageWorks SAN management tool

Can HP pull it off?
Giga Information Group analyst Anders Lofgren, in a paper on the storage family, raised concerns over HP's ability to integrate the product families from Compaq with its own lines.

He observed that while HP had defined a clear roadmap on each product category, "supporting older architectures and transitioning customers will strain the organisation's resources".

The paper also raised concerns over storage management. Lofgren said, "HP's inability to develop and introduce a new, complete storage management suite within the next 12 months will give many of its competitors a significant and insurmountable lead."

While the new HP has won plaudits for its clarity in spelling out many product lines, many industry observers said this was not so with storage.

Dianne McAdam, an analyst an Illuminata, said that storage was one of the product areas with the most direct overlap between the two companies.

She was concerned that, unlike HP's new server strategy, the storage roadmap was less well defined.

"The storage story is coherent and generally optimistic, but extremely thin compared to other parts of the saga, especially the lack of firm dates on many plans."

So what should users do as the company's product roadmap is fleshed out? Phil Goodwin, an analyst at Meta Group, advised users to avoid new investments in short-lived products.

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