HP hedges storage bets

In most areas, HP has wielded a knife on both its own and Compaq's products, but it wants the best of all worlds in storage

Hewlett-Packard's storage division has announced a plan that attempts to merge the product lines of HP and Compaq without immediate cancellations of any products, despite giving Compaq executives overall control of its storage architecture. In what might be described as a "reverse takeover", HP has acknowledged Compaq's superior performance in the storage market, and put Compaq people in charge of the storage division. Early indictations are that those executives are attempting to keep the HP products on, including products based on systems from Hitachi Data Systems, or at least deferring the difficult decisions. However, despite its efforts to reassure users that all products will continue, the company has produced uncertainty by cancelling events based around HP-heritage storage products, including the European launch of its version of Hitachi's latest storage system. "HP remains committed to offering multiple choices for disk array and storage area network products," says an HP strategy document. "We will consolidate and rationalise our array portfolio and focus on creating NAS/SAN convergence." Both the HP XP product and Compaq's StorageWorks Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA) are being kept on. XP is a version of the Lightning system from Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), and EVA is originated from the Compaq acquisition, Digital Equipment Corp. In its plan HP explains that it needs the two because the HDS product "enables storage consolidation via a single, monolithic, scalable and highly available storage system," while the Compaq is more scalable and suitable for the mid-range. "We believe HP will see the value of what we have today," said Vincent Franceschini, senior director of future technologies at Hitachi Data Systems, pointing out that with the new Lightning system, HDS' storage products can be scaled to much larger sizes than can Compaq's. HP's efforts not to lose anything continue in the mid-range. Here, Compaq's StorageWorks EVA might seem to be the best choice, say experts. However, HP will continue to offer its VA solutions for HP-UX centric environments and StorageWorks EMA modular arrays for heterogeneous environments "until our EVA architecture-based products fulfill our customer requirements, expected to be the middle of 2003." In storage area networks, HP plans to merge both companies' products. Experts say this might not be too hard given the companies' reliance on Brocade; for network attached storage (NAS), StorageWorks is being classified as entry level, while the HP appliance has become a mid-range and enterprise product. For storage management, HP's OpenView is too strong a brand for the company to do anything other than keep it on, but the company clearly acknowledges its deficiencies and will "integrate" the good bits of Compaq's storage management. In virtualisation, HP and Compaq have been at each others' throats, but once again these products will become complementary. "We will offer a multi-level virtualisation strategy and phased implementation plans, including the integration of HP and Compaq virtualisation IP into a common, multi-tier virtualisation strategy.

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In other words, that battle has still to be fought.