HP To Unveil Entry-Level 3PAR Storage: Whitman

Hewlett-Packard is planning to unveil an entry-level version of its 3PAR storage array, a move welcomed by HP's solution providers as it would give them a single architecture to take to customers from SMBs to enterprises.

Word about the upcoming entry-level 3PAR array comes from none other than HP CEO Meg Whitman, who told CRN at last week's BoB Conference that her company has a "fabulous" storage offering that is expanding into the lower end of the market.

"We have a fabulous 3PAR offering that is the same architecture from top to bottom, high-end, mid-tier and then our introduction ultimately of our low end," Whitman told CRN. "Today, we OEM [our entry level] MSA but we are crafting a 3PAR low-end offering. It is one architecture. It really is for the new style of IT. And we have got a very good software defined storage offering coming."

[Related: Whitman: HP Has Better Hand Than EMC Or Cisco]

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An HP spokesperson declined to provide further details.

An entry-level 3PAR solution would be a huge move for HP, one channel partner said.

It would be good for HP to have a 3PAR solution at the entry level, said Chris Case, president of Sequel Data Systems, an Austin, Texas-based solution provider and longtime HP channel partner.

"We have customers with higher-end 3PARs we installed who want to go cheap and deep," Case told CRN. "And some customers look at the 3PAR 7200 series as still too expensive. Having the ability to manage storage from entry-level to the cloud with the same tools is extremely important."

Case, who has heard rumors but no details of a possible entry-level 3PAR, said he looks forward to it replacing HP's long-term entry-level solution, the MSA series, which HP OEMs from Dot Hill.

The fact that HP has a strategy to roll out 3PAR storage at an even lower price range is a great strategy, said Dave Butler, president of Enterprise Computing Solutions, a Mission Viejo, Calif.-based solution provider and longtime HP channel partner.

Butler told CRN that he would like to see HP carry the 3PAR to a whole new level beyond the entry-level array market with a software-defined version, much as it has done with its older LeftHand solution, which is not the basis of HP's Virtual Storage Appliance, or VSA.

"In our world, we focus on 3PAR," Butler said. "But now the lowest price is still over $50,000 for a fully configured solution. MSA is a much smaller solution. And the day HP comes out with an entry-level 3PAR, it will make sense for them to also come out with 3PAR software in industry-standard servers."

NEXT: HP 3PAR Becomes Key Driver To HP Storage Success

3PAR became HP's flagship storage offering, starting with HP's 2010 acquisition of it for $2.35 billion after a long and bitter bidding war with Dell, which made an initial offer for 3PAR of $1.15 billion.

3PAR, however, remained an expensive high-end storage solution with a limited customer base until late 2012, when HP moved to bring its high-end 3PAR family downmarket to compete against the EMC VNX family by introducing the HP 3PAR StoreServ 7400 and 3PAR StoreServ 7200 with starting prices as low as $20,000.

HP in mid-2013 unveiled the HP 3PAR StoreServ 7200 all-flash array starter kit that lets customers get all-flash array storage technology with a list price starting at $35,000 for 7 GB. It scales up to 690 TB using the 3PAR Thin Duplication and Thin Clones software as customers' requirements grow.

For HP, 3PAR has become not only its primary storage platform, but the key to the company's rising storage fortunes.

Analyst firm IDC in September said, as part of its Worldwide Quarterly Disk Storage Systems Tracker, that in the second quarter of 2014 when the entire storage industry, including nearly all the top vendors, showed a decline in storage revenue, HP was the exception.

HP's storage revenue rose 0.4 percent to $596 million for the quarter, despite an overall 1.4 percent drop in the storage market, according to IDC.

HP's push to bring its 3PAR arrays to ever-lower price points was key to its success, Butler said.

"Prior to buying 3PAR, it was hard to scale that solution down below a quarter-million dollars," he said. "Now a fully configured solution can be purchased for under $50,000. But that hasn't come from a watering down of the product. It has been from HP scaling down the solution. HP took 3PAR's intellectual property and rolled it out as part of a strategy to reach a wider range of customers."

Indeed, Butler said, 3PAR at the higher end is replacing HP's XP series, which are OEMed from Hitachi Data Systems, and could do the same at the entry-level.

That would follow HP's server strategy, which has moved from a focus on quarter-million-dollar Unix servers to the industry's leading line of x86-based servers.

"HP's strategy is to make technology affordable for the masses," he said. "HP focuses on delivering high value. I've never seen them say, 'We want to build the most expensive products.' Volume and value are important for HP."

Case said that, while his company has been unable to bring 3PAR to a wider customer base because of pricing, his customers, including those who have been using the EVA line that HP got with its 2002 acquisition of Compaq, will take advantage of the new solution when available.

"HP EVA customers are waiting for this," he said. "These customers are loyal to HP."