Hewlett-Packard's acquisition of OuterBay Technologies came on the day HP was showing off its latest Storage Essentials management software at its Marlborough, Mass., office. Execs said it was just one of many software salvos they expect to fire at their rivals in coming months.
“There's more coming,” said Ash Ashutosh, HP’s CTO of storage management, referring to acquisitions and partnerships at yesterday's conference.
What the execs at Marlborough didn’t say was that HP is also preparing systems upgrades later this month aimed primarily at EMC and IBM. Sources say HP will unveil 4-Gbit/s and iSCSI connectivity for its Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA) midrange SANs and upgrade its tape, virtual tape, and WAN accelerator products on or about February 21.
The systems changes are largely cosmetic. For instance, to beat EMC to the 4-Gbit/s punch, HP will upgrade the front-end connectivity to its EVA systems without changing the back end, I/O per second (IOPS), or throughput speeds. The iSCSI connectivity is a ProLiant server running Microsoft Windows Storage Server 2003 -- and perhaps eventually LeftHand Networks’ SAN/iQ software -- in front of the EVA.
“There is a lot of sizzle,” says one analyst familiar with the rollout, “and not a lot of steak.”
But HP is clearly adding software beef as it tries to continue the storage comeback it began in late 2005. In doing so, it is following EMC’s lead of building its software arsenal through acquisitions and partnerships.
While it still has a long way to go to match the billions of dollars that EMC spent on Documentum, Legato, VMware, Smarts, Dantz, Rainfinity, and Captiva over the past three years, HP opened its wallet wide for AppIQ SRM and OuterBay database archiving software in the last five months. Sources say HP spent well over $200 million for AppIQ and around $100 million for Outerbay.
“Less and less, the differentiator is hardware,” says Mike Feinberg, HP’s VP and CTO of storage. “It comes from making systems easier to use and manage.”
HP quickly integrated AppIQ’s SRM capabilities into its Storage Essentials suite by keeping the AppIQ team together and more than doubling the size of the development and marketing teams. Feinberg says he expects to follow the same plan with OuterBay. Like AppIQ, OuterBay was an HP OEM partner before the acquisition.
HP’s software strategy includes replication and device management as well as SRM and archiving. There’s still a lot of work to be done, though. HP’s backup software -- Data Protector Suite -- is considered weak compared to competitors Symantec, EMC, IBM, and CommVault.
HP’s recent track record suggests it will try to strengthen backup either through an acquisition or OEM deal. Along with its recent acquisitions, in 2005 HP struck OEM deals with Sepaton for virtual tape, Riverbed Technologies for WAN acceleration, PolyServe for clustered NAS, and Mendocino Software for CDP. HP has yet to deliver the CDP product, however, while EMC began shipping a product based on Mendocino’s technology last fall.
HP made overtures to CommVault last summer but found the asking price too high, according to industry sources.
Meanwhile, SRM looks like the most likely place for HP to make inroads quickly using the Storage Essentials platform. Because AppIQ built its software on Storage Management Initiative (SMI) and Common Interface Model (CIM) specs and is also sold by Hitachi Data Systems, Sun, and Engenio, HP sees it as a logical choice to manage heterogeneous storage systems. SRM is also an area where customers appear largely unsatisfied and are still looking for tools.
HP has integrated Storage Essentials with HP Systems Insight Manager, a free server management tool that ships with every HP ProLiant server. The idea is to combine network and storage management -- a strategy EMC and IBM have also embarked upon.
At least one user likes the combined management trend. Babu Kudaravalli, director of enterprise systems for Port Washington, N.Y.-based National Medical Healthcard Systems, likes being able to manage servers and storage from one interface. Kudaravelli is evaluationg Storage Essentials 5.0 for his shop, which has about 80 Tbytes of capacity spread over two XP enterprise systems, two EVA 8000 midrange systems, and an MSA 1500 low-end SAN. The healthcare provider also has about 150 Windows servers and 20 Linux servers.
“It helps not having 15 different management screens,” he says. “And before, there was no way I could represent my fabric on the system except if I drew it on Visio. Now [Storage Essentials] represents my fabric. All I have to do is cut and paste, and I could give it to anybody in our company.”
Kudavarelli doesn’t consider HP’s -- or anybody else’s -- VTL or database archiving ready for primetime, however. And he’s waiting for HP to fully integrate backup reporting, server utilization, and downtime monitoring into Storage Essentials.
“We requested a little more comprehensive reporting,” he says. “They don’t have complete integration with Data Protector, but it’s on their roadmap.” Along with a lot more.