HP's 3PAR Storage Connects To Blades Without SAN, Targeting Cisco, EMC Offerings

Hewlett-Packard on Monday unveiled several new significant additions to its storage portfolio including the ability to connect its 3PAR arrays directly to its blade servers without an SAN, a move directly targeting arch-rival Cisco's UCS technology.

HP, Palo Alto, Calif., introduced its new storage technology at the HP Discover conference, held this week in Las Vegas.

The new storage additions revolve around data center converged infrastructure, and they compete directly with such offerings as rival VCE's Vblocks, said Craig Nunes, vice president of marketing for HP storage.

[Related: Data Center Decision: Converged Infrastructure Vs. Best-Of-Breed ]

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Converged infrastructure refers to tying server, storage and IP networking into an integrated solution in order to give customers a single vendor source for building data centers and moving towards cloud computing.

HP was a pioneer in converged infrastructure technology with its Matrix offering. However, it has required a Fibre Channel network, which adds significantly to the cost.

No longer, Nunes said. With the new HP Virtual Connect Direct-Attach Fibre Channel for 3PAR Storage solution, HP's 3PAR plugs directly into the HP BladeSystem chassis via HP's Virtual Connect technology, eliminating the need for a Fibre Channel SAN.

"This is the industry's first 'flat SAN,'" Nunes said. "We're eliminating all the Fibre Channel hubs, the talking to other SAN equipment, and creating a direct connect to up to 768 server blades."

As a result, HP 3PAR storage, which until now required a Fibre Channel SAN, can now be implemented with HP's blade servers to form a converged infrastructure offering at 50 to 60 percent below the cost of a comparable Vblock, Nunes said. It also features about 2.5-times faster provisioning compared to Vblocks, he said.

"Now 3PAR connects directly to up to 768 blades," he said. "Just imagine how many virtual machines that supports. Thousands. It's pretty cool."

VCE Vblocks feature component from two HP arch rivals, including storage arrays from Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC, San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco networking gear, and Cisco UCS servers, which are integrated and shipped as a complete solution to customers.

NEXT: Simplifying And Cutting The Cost Of Converged Infrastructure

The biggest cost difference between building a converged infrastructure using HP 3PAR and server blades or using Vblocks stems from the cost of the networking, HP's Nunes said. "With Vblocks, customers still pay for the Cisco infrastructure," he said. "We've eliminated that requirement. We've also cut the need to constantly add and tear down virtual machines."

The HP Virtual Connect Direct-Attach Fibre Channel for 3PAR Storage solution also means customers get a converged infrastructure from a single vendor. "They get it all from one company, with the size depending on the number of virtual machines they need," he said.

HP acquired 3PAR in late 2011 and has since made it the center of its enterprise and cloud storage strategy.

The ability to connect 3PAR storage directly to HP's blade servers fits well with HP's converged infrastructure strategy, said Marc Sarazin, executive vice president of sales and marketing at AdvizeX, an Independence, Ohio-based solution provider and HP partner.

"It's something customers have been looking for," Sarazin said. "Any time we can simplify the management and lower the cost of the IT infrastructure is appealing to customers."

Bill Cassidy, CTO of IT Partners, a Tempe, Ariz.-based solution provider and HP partner, said the question of how 3PAR storage connects to HP's blade servers comes up when customers see how well Cisco UCS servers attach to EMC or NetApp storage.

The traditional 3PAR sale has been to customers with an existing SAN infrastructure, and so customers were looking to replace their existing array while keeping their SAN, Cassidy said.

"It hasn't been a deal breaker," he said. "The customer decision has been more of a whole, as in do they go with HP or Cisco blades and not whether they can attach 3PAR to the blade chassis. But with this new capability, it will be easier to talk to customers about HP's converged infrastructure."

It will get even easier as HP unveils smaller versions of its 3PAR storage arrays, Cassidy said. "Also, with VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure), it will be easy to include 3PAR and HP blades in our repertoire as a more cost-effective solution without the need for a storage network," he said. "Or to talk to customers in greenfield environments where there is no need to purchase a storage network."