HP takes a LeftHand turn to produce first scalable iSCSI storage for blades

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Content Copyright © 2009 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.

HP has been
rapidly absorbing iSCSI vendor LeftHand Networks since its takeover was
announced late last year and the first fruits demonstrate a change of direction
in storage for HP.

The combination of
HP x86 hardware and LeftHand iSCSI SAN/iQ software has given rise to the HP
LeftHand P4000 SAN solution series to be released worldwide through the HP
channel on May Day.

IDC estimated the
iSCSI storage segment at almost $1.5Bn in 2008 as well as being the fastest
growing connectivity type. Place that finding alongside three-quarters of
virtualised server users planning to buy new storage within two years and a
majority of these wanting IP SANs—and the need to get into iSCSI was an HP no
brainer. In fact there is a lot riding on this.

LeftHand is a very
good fit because, as well as specialising in iSCSI, it has already deployed SAN/iQ
heavily though not exclusively on HP x86 hardware. Larry Cormier, VP of
Marketing at Lefthand, told me: “We went for HP products because we thought
they would ride Moore’s
Law in cost per GB savings; and so it has proved.”

However, the two
companies’ joint development has taken this further to produce an
industry-first of scalable, highly available, rack-mounted blade storage. The
HP LeftHand P4000 series is based on Network RAID with resilience to keep
storage available despite controller, server or chassis failures. 100s of
clustered drives can be managed as a single infrastructure.

The software, now
known as HP LeftHand P4000 Virtual SAN Appliance (VSA), is deployed on HP
StorageWorks SB40c storage blade bundle and supports thin provisioning (‘buy as
you need’), remote replication and snapshotting. It is integrated with VMware

A single
centralised management console controls the storage infrastructure, providing a
virtual representation of the physical pool. Using blades in this way provides
far more storage capacity per blade server, while the general advantages of
blade—leaner, greener, less wiring and so on—make the overall package simpler
and more self-contained to manage.

At the same time,
HP has been reorganising its storage operations. The new ‘Unified Storage
Division’ will bring together its NAS and Fibre Channel (FC) groups and I was
assured there would be no financial incentives, for instance, for selling FC
rather than iSCSI or vice-versa.

Here in Europe in particular, iSCSI is virtually a green field
market for both parties. So education is a bigger challenge than in the US—for both HP’s
channel and potential iSCSI purchasers—not least in explaining why they
should go for the HP iSCSI/blade combination. Gerhard Keller, HP’s manager of volume
storage in EMEA, said: “A lot of education is needed and there is a 6–9 month
adoption curve.” He said the company was running trainee roadshows with both
sales and technical training.

HP can also expect
plenty of competitive activity from the other major hardware vendors. But
Keller said: “Other vendors are margin-focused so it will be difficult for
them,” and added, “HP’s 0% financing option makes this more cost effective.”

The P4300 storage
systems are entry-level SAS and SATA starter SANs with cluster nodes. The P4500
consists of a storage virtualisation SAN, multi-site SAN and nodes. Other P4000
options include Virtual Storage Appliance (VSA) for VMware, remote replication
for remote offices and a 10Gb Ethernet upgrade kit.

Placing LeftHand’s
iSCSI into virtualised HP blade storage pools in this way would seem to have plenty
going for it. Clearly, the HP LeftHand P4000 series is no hastily cobbled-together
product set but the result of a well thought-through strategy which has been
swiftly executed.

I will watch with
interest how this market develops in 2009.