HP Uses VAR's Show To Introduce New Storage


Less than two months after its historic merger with Compaq, the new Hewlett-Packard used a solution provider-sponsored event to revamp its storage hardware and software product lines.

HP also used the event to offer sneak peeks at some of the new disaster-recovery and performance features expected to be added to HP's Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA) this fall to make the product more flexible.

HP took advantage of an end-user conference held here this week by one of its largest storage partners, Nth Generation Computing, San Diego, to unveil follow-on products to both its legacy HP and Compaq product lines.

Using the Nth Generation event to introduce the company's first new storage products was intentional, said Mark Sorenson, vice president of storage software for HP's Network Storage Systems Division. "This is to reinforce how important our solution providers, our channel providers, are to the new HP," he said.

Rich Baldwin, president and CEO of Nth Generation, said he was pleasantly surprised that HP decided to use his company's event to introduce new products.

"Since we did have several hundred of the largest storage clients here in Southern California assembled, [they decided this would be a good forum to actually make the new product announcements," Baldwin said. "So they actually moved the [product announcement date from the beginning of July to the 16th just to accommodate this event."

On Tuesday, HP unveiled version two of its legacy Compaq EVA. The new version supports the HP-UX, IBM AIX, Sun Solaris v.2.6 as well as v.7 and v.8, and Microsoft Windows 2000 Data Center platforms. Capacity was doubled to 34 Tbytes per array. Also new is space-efficient snapshot capability for fast backups, said Sorenson.

The new EVA stores up to seven snapshots per LUN, but that will be increased to up to 48 snapshots per LUN in future versions, another HP executive said.

The StorageWorks va7410 is the latest in the legacy HP VA series of arrays, and now offers four RAID ports instead of two, as well as double the capacity and performance of previous models. Sometime in the next couple of weeks, HP will cut the price by about 5 percent, Sorenson said.

These improvements come despite the fact that HP has already decided to phase out the VA in favor of the EVA next year. "We see the EVA as the long-term platform from the low end up to the enterprise. . . . We will support the VA for the next year and beyond as our customers require it," said Sorenson.

HP also introduced new SDLT, DLT and LTO tape drives, a new low-end NAS appliance, new 2-Gbps Fibre Channel core switches with up to 128 ports, and new versions of its StorageWorks Enterprise Volume Manager and StorageWorks Secure Path software applications to improve storage availability, replication and management.

Steve Sicola, who was CTO of Compaq StorageWorks until the merger and who just resigned from HP to become an independent analyst, said that down the road solution providers can expect more disaster-tolerant features, including high-performance replication over longer distances and the ability to support multiple remote sites.

For instance, said Sicola, future models will allow the use of stretched clusters, under which servers and storage arrays can be clustered with similar equipment up to 100km away and replicated to each other in realtime to allow local processing with immediate failover if a disaster strikes one of the sites.

Another upcoming feature is sparse LUNs, which Sicola said allows a RAID array to ask for more data capacity than what is available. For instance, if someone asks to set up a 1-Tbyte volume, but the array has only a couple hundred Gbytes of spare space, it will be done. "[It will basically fake out the operating system and do what it needs to do," he said. "And then, when it starts running up against a predefined threshold, it'll start putting out more bells and whistles telling you to feed more drives to it so that it can have that extra space when it needs it."

HP will shortly start rolling out more automated management software to handle such tasks as taking snapshots or starting backups, said Sicola. Also expect new provisioning tools that automate the setting up of new storage devices plugged into the network, he said.

This fall, HP is also expected to roll out its VersaStore out-of-band storage virtualization technology. Several industry observers this week said that the technology is in beta testing at a "large software vendor based in a place where it rains a lot," a thinly veiled reference to Microsoft.

Nth Generation's Baldwin said the new OS support as well as new features of the EVA, along with upcoming disaster-recovery features and support for Linux expected in the fall, will make the array a more competitive offering. "[It will then cover practically all of the major platforms, save the IBM mainframe," he said.

The performance and capacity upgrades to HP's legacy VA are important despite the planned phasing out of the line next year, said Baldwin. "[The VA line covers a number of platforms that are currently not supported within the EVA," he said. "It still is a year away, I think, before we're going to see complete functionality within the EVA in terms of all platforms supported and in terms of disaster recovery. So if you're looking for those kind of missing features, you either have to fall back to the VA series or the [legacy EMA series."