HP touts storage appliance for SMBs

HP joins the rest of the industry with a sub-$10,000 storage appliance and unveils Storage Essentials 5.1.

HP  is jumping on the small- to medium-sized business (SMB) bandwagon with a storage appliance priced at under $10,000 that will support iSCSI and network attached storage (NAS), and include backup software.

The company preannounced the product at a press event on 31 July but has declined to reveal the technical details until it ships in September. HP's news comes a couple of weeks after Network Appliance Inc. (NetApp) launched its StoreVault product aimed at small businesses and EMC  reiterated plans for a major assault on this sector via its relationships with Intel  and NEC.  Right now, EMC has just one product for small and midsized businesses (SMB) and that's the AX150, sold by Dell Inc. and Intel.

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"Small customers don't have the money or the expertise to manage Fibre Channel [ storage area network] SANs," says Debbie Young, worldwide marketing manager in HP's storage division. Gartner reports that up to 70% of small businesses are still using direct attached storage (DAS) because the migration from DAS to SAN is perceived to be too complex.

"To perform an Exchange server migration from direct attached to networked storage takes 30 steps, which is too long and complex for most small companies," Young said. HP's new low-end array, which starts at $5,000 for 1 terabyte, will be based on Microsoft Windows Storage Server and will enable this kind of migration in less than 10 clicks, she said. "Even I can do it."

Users will be able to move data without taking applications like Exchange down and manage the migration from an application view. "They are used to working in Exchange and SQL -- they understand that view," Young said.

Commenting on NetApp's StoreVault product, she said: "They made an SMB version of Data OnTap [NetApp's storage operating system], it's easy to understand if you already understand storage, but it's still too complex for the general IT administrator."

Unlike StoreVault, which cannot be upgraded to the company's midrange fabric attached storage (FAS) product line, HP's low-end box will be upgradeable to its MSA line by swapping out the disks.

However, there seems to be some confusion within the company on how to differentiate the low end of the MSA family, namely the 1510i iSCSI array from the new SMB box.

In a separate presentation, Kyle Fitze, director of marketing for HP's SAN division said the MSA 1510i was aimed at first-time storage users. He clarified that the 1510i would offer better performance as it's a block-based array versus the new SMB appliance that is more of a Swiss army knife approach, combining iSCSI, NAS and data protection features into a single "all-in-one-appliance." The "single purpose system will always offer better performance than the multipurpose device," he said.

Why now?

According to Ash Ashutosh, chief technology officer of HP's storage division, there are three elements that make the timing right for this kind of storage appliance for small businesses. "A more rapid adoption of standards, tighter integration of previously separate domains, i.e. applications, servers and storage; and the distribution model is there," he said. HP plans to spend $20 million marketing the new SMB product this year.

Greg Schulz, founder and analyst with StorageI/O Group notes that the battle lines are being drawn in the SMB space, but as yet no one is making much money from this market. "It'll be interesting to see if it pans out and Gartner's stats mean anything," he said.

Updates to Storage Essentials

HP also announced version 5.1 of its Storage Essentials storage resource management software, which adds support for NetApp Qtree and quotes, Microsoft Storport, automated agent installation, server to storage attachment chargeback and improved integration with Microsoft Active Directory. Storage Essentials 5.1 ships in September.

Furthermore, HP unveiled its fifth OEM partner for Storage Essentials, Bull in France. Existing OEM partners for Storage Essentials include Hitachi Data Systems Inc., Sun Microsystems Inc., Engenio Technologies Inc. and Silicon Graphics Inc. "Bull is EMC's largest distributor in France so this helps us penetrate EMC accounts in Europe," said John Kelly, marketing manager in HP's storage division.

Lastly, HP announced reference configurations for organizations undertaking business intelligence projects, the message here clearly being that users need to buy more storage and servers to avoid poor performance.

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