HP overhauls Riss

Fessing up to bugs and an unworkable pricing scheme in previous versions of its data archiving product, HP has relaunched RISS as the Integrated Archive Platform.

Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) is taking another shot at archiving with a revamped platform as HP execs admit their Reference Information Storage System (RISS) product was not up to snuff.

HP reworked the product to fix bugs, beef up search and index, make it more modular and reduce pricing. The goal is to make it a better fit for e-discover and compliance. It also has a new name: HP Integrated Archive Platform (IAP).

"There were some issues with QA [quality assurance] in the previous version, where there were some bugs that weren't captured," said Jonathan Martin, chief marketing officer for the information management division within HP's software group. "We have since moved it out of the hardware team to software, where there's much more software engineering discipline."

RISS was based on software HP picked up when it acquired Persist Technologies in 2003. Martin declined to give an example of the kind of bug that wasn't caught in RISS, but added "we have worked diligently to get the issues resolved and there is a crisper focus on where and how the product should be used."

Even if HP hit its mark with the improvements, the time lost with a subpar archiving system puts it behind its rivals in a rapidly growing market. EMC Corp.'s Centera is the main player, but Hitachi Data Systems also bolstered its Hitachi Content Archiving Platform (HCAP) based on technology from its purchase of Archivas in February. IBM also moved to strengthen its archiving platform this year through on OEM deal with software startup Bycast Inc.. Other storage vendors with archiving products include Network Appliance Inc., Nexsan Technologies Inc. and software startup Caringo Inc.

According to Illuminata analyst John Webster, the root problem with RISS was the lack of focus alluded to by Martin. "It was never clear to me what they wanted to do with it and where it was supposed to fit in the overall storage architecture," he said. "First it was positioned as grid storage, then as supporting [regulatory] compliance, then for archival storage, as a secondary storage tier…"

Now, Martin said, the focus is on archiving for e-discovery and compliance, a hot topic in the market since the updates to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure changed e-discovery regulations in December.

Another issue with RISS resolved by IAP, Martin said, is pricing. Previously the starting list price for RISS was $420,000. HP required users to repurchase software licenses for each data storage "block" that made up the hardware grid, and to purchase fully populated systems. Now, an unpopulated rack with a single 1.4 TB grid cell can be purchased for a starting price of $71,000.

"Previously, customers had to purchase software licenses over and over and over again," Martin said. "We have completely retooled that pricing structure and also benefit from decreased costs for hardware components over time." Each individual 1.4 TB cell can now be added to the system for a list price of $8,000.

Finally, HP updated its search and index features. Users previously could only search within each frame of the total RISS system, which in large environments could expand up to half a dozen individual chassis. IAP will let users search across the entire system regardless of the number of chassis installed. The software's multithreading capabilities have been enhanced so it will no longer "hit the wall," performance-wise, at high capacities, according to Martin.

HP is looking to add partners around content management products, and with this release it has announced support for 30 of the most common content management tools including Vignette and OpenText. "We understand that these partners are having to do different integration with us and other archiving partners like EMC," Martin said. "We are looking into supporting open standards in order to make that integration easier."

HP is hoping its new modular approach and lowered price point will help it move the newly revamped product downmarket. Webster said he wasn't so sure that strategy will work. "It depends on what your environment is like—users should make sure they have enough litigation requests and capacity under management to justify the purchase of specialized hardware for these purposes," he said.

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