Hewlett-Packard has introduced a new integrated storage system designed to drastically reduce the complexity of storage management for small and midsize companies.
The product family, called the HP StorageWorks AiO (All-in-One) storage system, provides an integrated approach to storage by combining NAS (network-attached storage), an iSCSI SAN (storage area network), data protection and storage management.
The system includes HP StorageWorks Data Protector Express software and runs on Microsoft Windows Storage Server 2003.
Users access the system through a simple graphical user interface and manage data storage, sharing, management, backup and data protection at the application level.
HP storage experts designed the system after conducting a series of focus groups with a variety of small and midsize businesses earlier this year.
“We found that SMBs arent just waiting for a less expensive solution,” said Debbie Young, worldwide marketing manager for SMB solutions in HPs StorageWorks division.
“We found that their key inhibitors for moving to networked storage are complexity, followed by price.”
The result of that research was the StorageWorks All-in-One Storage Systems, an easy-to-use, easy-to-manage unified system that even users unfamiliar with the complexities of storage management could use.
“We designed it for IT generalists, not storage experts, so it works from the application level,” Young said.
“A lot of SMBs are working at the application level with applications like SQL and Exchange, so they understand that world, but they really dont understand things like LUNs and disk arrays. So we created a unified environment with an all-in-one solution manager that looks at everything from the application level.”
To illustrate her point, Young compared the relative complexity of migrating data from an Exchange server into any type of networked storage environment with the method AiO employs.
“It can take many steps, hours and user interfaces to migrate data from an Exchange server, but the AiO storage manager puts a simple application-level manager on top of all of that complexity, so it takes only five steps, all in language that looks like an application,” she said.
The AiO marks HPs most significant foray into the storage market for SMBs, and its a good move both for HP and for SMBs, said Ray Boggs, vice president of SMB and home office research at IDC, a Framingham, Mass., market research firm.
“This announcement in some ways is an effort to say that even small businesses now are getting big enough that it would be to their advantage to share storage capacity between multiple servers,” he said.
Boggs said that the sweet spot for this solution is probably companies with five to 10 servers.
HPs effort also could help SMBs make the decision to leap to networked storage, something the storage industry has been trying to do for several years with less-than-successful results, said Rick Villars, IDCs vice president of storage systems.
“This is the first time Ive seen an application-based approach to doing the configuration and management, which really does make it easier,” he said.
“To me, thats been whats been missing up until now, and they have taken an interesting approach to making that migration a lot less painful.”
In addition to being a step in the right direction in terms of reducing the complexity of a networked storage environment, the HP StorageWorks All-in-One storage system might help bring effective storage to places that traditionally have not had it, Boggs said.
“Weve heard that it will help existing storage customers do a better job of coordinating their storage resources, but longer term, it could be used by smaller companies with growing storage or even home-based storage,” he said.
The AiO is available in two basic configurations. The AiO400 comes with four SATA (Serial ATA) drive bays, with a total capacity of 1TB.
The AiO600 offers six SATA or SAS (Serial Attached SCSI) drive bays, with a total capacity of 1.5TB or 3TB for the SATA version and 876GB for the SAS version. Pricing ranges from $5,000 to $9,250.
As HP garners feedback from the StorageWorks AiO Storage Systems, executives will decide how to proceed with expanding the family, Young said.
“Well look at going to either larger, smaller or both,” she said. “We want to see the feedback from resellers and customers. That will determine what well do next.”