Hewlett-Packard Co. is on a storage mission to convince customers its products and services are a better option than those of main rival EMC Corp.
To do it, HP, with its fresh stable of storage products culled from its acquisition of Compaq Computer Corp., is pushing one-stop shopping and readying enhancements to its storage systems.
Unlike pure storage providers, HP can offer customers storage plus other crucial parts of their infrastructure, said Howard Elias, vice president and general manager of Network Storage Solutions for HP, in an interview last week from his Houston office.
“Its becoming a more strategic decision for customers,” Elias said of enterprise storage issues. “Were not just out there hawking disk arrays or just saying, Please buy more software because hardwares becoming lower margins.”
On the product front, HP will focus on software improvements, off-platform sales and converged technology after fully absorbing Compaq, he said.
The majority of HPs new storage products come from Compaq—as did Elias—where the companys products led in Windows-attached storage, modular storage as well as midsize business storage market share.
On the other hand, EMC, of Hopkinton, Mass., is the high-end leader in SANs (storage area networks), enterprise network-attached storage and high-end arrays.
On the software side, HP, of Palo Alto, Calif., is planning improvements to its recently released OpenView SAM (Storage Area Manager) product, Elias said, declining to elaborate. The product already has features for resource management and data replication.
HP plans to begin selling off- platform storage more aggressively, Elias added. The company plans to sell storage for IBMs AIX platforms, as well as Sun Microsystems Inc.s Solaris platforms, he said.
But HP is not alone. The company faces stiff competition from such companies as IBM, which is working on its StorageTank project—a next-generation file system that accomplishes virtualization. In addition, Microsoft Corp. has plans to merge technologies from its SQL Server DBMS with future versions of its Windows operating system.
Whether HP will do the same through internal development or acquisitions hasnt been determined. The company already resells high-end arrays from Hitachi Ltd. The goal is to offer IP-based global storage networks in 2004.
Paul Sikora, director of production services at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, agrees with Elias assessment of the storage business. But Sikora, who stores 100 terabytes in multiple data centers, said HPs plans lack innovation. “There were times, even pre-SAN, where you could shift media on a pretty short notice,” he said. And virtualization is “not that important,” Sikora said.
What is needed—and what Sikora isnt hearing about from HP—is better integration of storage with specific application needs.
While Elias did not elaborate on the issue of vendor interoperability, HP last week extended Compaqs existing API-sharing deal with EMC and is scheduled to unveil a similar deal with IBM this week, although IBM might postpone that a few weeks, sources said.
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