HP Makes Grid Centerpiece of Storage Push

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HP officials promised to use grid technology to get back in the enterprise storage game and help make up for horrid storage revenues last quarter.

HP Chairman and CEO Carly Fiorina made an impassioned appeal at the HP Americas StorageWorks Conference in Houston Tuesday, promising attendees that the company that helped usher in network storage would rise again and rebound.

The Palo Alto, Calif., concern experienced a 15 percent decline in enterprise storage in the second quarter, losing ground to rivals IBM, EMC and Hitachi Data Systems.

“Some of you may be wondering whether we are committed to storage,” Fiorina to the more than 1,000 people attending in-person and via Webcast, in an obvious reference to the poor performance of Q2. “Our determination to lead in storage is unwavering. HP is in this business for the long haul.”

The executive, who has weathered more than her share of criticism since leading the outfit through its purchase of Compaq a few years ago, went on to describe the world as currently “awash with data,” which is then turned into information, then knowledge and finally used for competitive advantage.

To compensate for the exploding glut of stored info, which she said is growing 30 percent a year, Fiorina said HP is using a new approach called StorageWorks Grid, which was developed in HP Labs over the last three years.

As previously reported, the idea behind StorageWorks Grid is to have a number of commodity storage “cells” or compartments, which can take on different identities, such as network-attached storage (NAS) , block or content-addressed storage.

The cells are self-contained, with a dedicated processor, search engine, database, index and management layer. However, they all communicate with one another to store, retrieve and archive files efficiently and faster than traditional storage arrays. The software is also much faster than current storage systems, scanning three billion files in three seconds, Fiorina said.

So as not to incur more hardware costs for customers, the Grid runs on HP standard storage arrays, such as the new XP12000. Ultimately, Grid will run on arrays from competitors such as IBM and EMC, the executive said.

Customers are using StorageWorks Grid technology in practical cases, Fiorina said.

NASDAQ is using the HP StorageWorks Reference Information Storage System (RISS) archive and retrieval software based on the StorageWorks Grid architecture. HP’s RISS architecture provides customers with information lifecycle management, the company’s strategy for managing information from its creation until its deletion.

Bob Schultz, senior vice president and general manager of HP Network Storage Systems Group, outlined a roadmap during the event, noting that after the RISS implementation, HP will next offer software tools for file serving, archiving and management based on the Grid.

In the next phase, HP said it would write software that provides management co-existence in the storage environment, such as block-serving smart cells, downloadable smart cell functionality, integrated heterogeneous array controllers and grid-based management.

Looking to 2008 and beyond, HP said it plans to deliver management convergence for the StorageWorks Grid through changeable smart cell functionality, repository virtualization and a unified StorageWorks Grid.

StorageWorks Grid is an example of how HP is tailoring its technology to be more service-oriented and to “synchronize business and IT to capitalize on change,” which defines the company’s broad Adaptive Enterprise strategy. HP is partnering with Cisco Systems, Brocade and McDATA to bolster the technology.

In other news geared to help HP’s lagging storage sales, the company has expanded its Simply StorageWorks education initiative in Europe, Middle East and Africa to include the U.S. and Canada. Simply StorageWorks is designed to make network storage technology easier to understand for small and medium business customers and HP’s commercial channel partners.

Clint Boulton
Clint Boulton
Clint Boulton is an Enterprise Storage Forum contributor and a senior writer for CIO.com covering IT leadership, the CIO role, and digital transformation.

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