Compaq takes on HP in storage arena

While product plans for the merged companies remain secret, Compaq and HP's storage divisions are pitching for the best position under an ex-Compaq exec

Compaq has announced new storage products at a customer conference in Lisbon. The products, including a "NAS head" which bridges the gap between Storage Area Networks (SANs) and Network Attached Storage (NAS) servers, and an entry-level NAS system, have arrived in time to do battle for a place in the portfolio of the company that is created if the merger with Hewlett-Packard goes ahead as expected. Though executives refuse to discuss the matter, the commercial competition between the two sets of storage systems has been replaced by a life-and-death struggle for a place in the joint product plans being developed behind closed doors by executives from both companies. HP has announced that the head of Network Storage Solutions will be Howard Elias, a Compaq executive who joined the company with the acquisition of Digital. However, whether Compaq's Enterprise Network Storage Architecture (ENSA) or HP's storage products will survive is still undecided. "Today we are truly head-to-head competitors (with HP)," said Roger Archibald, vice president of Compaq's enterprise storage array division, adding that when his division comes up against HP or EMC it tends to win out. "Forty-seven percent of new disk storage sold in Western Europe is Compaq storage," he said, adding that Compaq makes up 29 percent of the installed storage base here, and did $3.4bn in storage worldwide. Although "excited about the formation of a new company," and determined that the future of Compaq's StorageWorks SAN range will be protected, Archibald said that the joint company's plan will emerge "within two weeks" of the expected approval of the deal. Fifteen hundred employees of the two companies have been seconded to a 'clean room' where the strategy will be worked out. Compaq's NAS head, the NAS B3000, combines with the MSA1000 -- a Fibre Channel storage module launched in December -- to provide a storage pool of up to 3 terabytes, which is available for both NAS and SAN. Pricing will be announced on 9 April, but Archibald promised a cost per megabyte of 4 to 6 cents. Hewlett-Packard already has a similar product, which it launched last month. Compaq has also added to its portfolio the S1000, an entry-level NAS box for departments or small businesses. The device holds 320GB to 640GB of data in a 1U rackmount chassis, and will cost "one or two cents per megabyte," according to the company. It is less flexible than the B3000, as the storage is integrated, and not available for SAN use through a Fibre Channel back-end. "When a business requires more than 640GB, it can adopt a SAN and redeploy this box elsewhere," said Archibald. A third new product, a high-end tape library, will expand on Compaq's current product, with expanded slots allowing up to 16 drives and a total of up to 595 tape cartridges. Compaq is also bullish about its prospects in storage virtualisation. "We have shipped more capacity than anyone else claiming to have a virtualisation product," said Archibald. Two petabytes of storage have been shipped with the company's Enterprise Virtual Array -- a product which provides an array of virtual storage -- launched last November. However, Compaq's virtualisation product only works with the company's own kit, while HP has a multi-vendor virtualisation product, derived from StorageApps, a company HP purchased. HP's virtualisation product allows users to virtualise across multiple vendors' storage products, an attribute which should be useful when two product lines are converged. "Our next product will offer SAN wide virtualisation," said Archibald, promising something more than the StorageApps product which he described as an "in-band virtualisation engine".

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