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H-P readies for major data storage launch

Hewlett-Packard Co. is preparing for the biggest-ever expansion of its data storage products and data services. The computer maker will announce at least nine revamped storage products and services offerings at H-P's Americas StorageWorks conference.
/ Source: Reuters

Hewlett-Packard Co. is poised for the biggest-ever expansion of its data storage products and data services as the No. 2 computer maker aims to regain ground recently lost to rivals such as EMC Corp. and Dell Inc. in the $63 billion global storage market.

The Palo Alto, California-based computer and printer maker will announce at least nine revamped storage products and services offerings at H-P's Americas StorageWorks conference, which starts May 16 in Las Vegas, Duncan Campbell, head of marketing for H-P storage, said in a telephone interview.

Since its computer server and storage business stumbled badly last August, H-P's storage business has been regrouping, developing the new products and adding 25 percent more storage salespeople specifically trained to sell the complicated equipment. Among the new offerings are updated versions of its StorageWorks Enterprise Virtual Arrays, which had fallen behind rival products.

"This really fills in a lot of gaps that they had," said Nancy Hurley, an analyst at market research firm Enterprise Strategy Group. "It is the biggest launch they've had in a long time, just in the number of products they're announcing."

Not only must corporations, in light of new accounting and medical regulations, retain ever more data, at the same time they want to be able to access, manage and centralize that data far more simply, Campbell and industry analysts said.

H-P is also announcing its first network attached storage, or NAS, entry aimed squarely at the large, corporate market, Campbell said. Until recently, NAS storage was largely found in the mid-tier storage market, but now large enterprises are embracing it as well as an entry-level solution.

"The simplicity of a lot of the mid-tier storage platforms is really ideal and fits a lot of their needs," said Stephanie Balaouras, an analyst at market research firm Yankee Group.

NAS and its counterpart, storage area networks -- or SANs -- are popular corporate storage alternatives and both are billion dollar markets, although SAN is larger.

The H-P StorageWorks Enterprise Services (EFS) Clustered Gateway, H-P's NAS enterprise offering, is aimed squarely at Network Appliance Inc. and EMC, where those two dominate in NAS, in both the mid-tier and the high end.

"That's another important piece," Hurley said of H-P's new NAS offering. "NetApp is really the predominant NAS player and EMC has done a fairly good job of catching that market."

H-P will also publicly debut the StorageWorks EFS WAN Accelerator, which it said speeds up access to applications that are shared across a network at branch offices by up to 100 times.

The company is also catching up with its new StorageWorks 6000 Virtual Library System, Hurley said. In terms of archiving data, companies are increasingly moving to disk drives from data stored on magnetic tape, because data both backed up and retrieved far faster on drives than on tapes.

The move to disk from tape has also been helped by the rapid decline in recent years of disk drives as the density of data that can be crammed onto each rotating platter has increased exponentially, Hurley said.

H-P also will unveil a set of support and management services that it calls StorageWorks ILM Services Framework, a series of five consulting offerings that help customers decide how best to deploy and build their storage networks, examine business needs and use metrics such as return on investment, among others, to get the best value.

Campbell said the bevy of announcements starting May 16 should go a long way toward convincing customers that it's committed to storage, something that Hurley noted some had begun to question.

"H-P is firmly committed to this business," Campbell said, noting that the announcements signal "our new aggressiveness to win."