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HP grabs hold of LeftHand Networks

Stronger competition for Dell/EqualLogic

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HP has snaffled the last of the main independent iSCSI SAN (Storage Area Networks) suppliers by buying LeftHand Networks in a $360m all-cash deal.

There were two pioneering iSCSI SAN companies: EqualLogic selling its own PS drive arrays, and LeftHand Networks whose SAN/iQ software aggregated direct-attached storage (DAS) on industry-standard servers into shared SAN storage. Dell bought EqualLogic in November last year, leaving LeftHand as the last main iSCSI independent.

It was founded in 1999 and is privately-held. It has been very successful, with many hundreds of customers and a world-wide channel with more than 500 resellers and distributors.

The SAN/iQ software plays well with virtual servers as it can be packaged as a VSA (Virtual Storage Appliance), a ready-to-run virtual machine. SAN/iQ supports thin provisioning - conning apps that they have a fully populated disk volume when they only have the capacity needed for writing data plus a bit, replication and space-efficient cloning, meaning the VDI (Virtual Desktop Image) storage, data protection and disaster recovery bases are covered.

It's also said to be remarkably easy to install and manage with one customer's IT head installing a VSA on his notebook during a flight to the Far East, checking out what it could do, and buying it when he returned to the UK. That made a change from watching in-flight movies.

HP will position LeftHand's SAN/iQ product as its mid-range iSCSI SAN offering. The low end is catered for by All-in-One and the MSA storage array products, and the high-end by EVA arrays. SAN/iQ runs on HP's ProLiant servers already too. The deal is expected to complete by the end of HP's first fiscal 2009 quarter, by which time HP will be ready to pump the product through its channel.

Dave Roberson, the SVP and GM for HP's StorageWorks Division, said: "The acquisition of LeftHand Networks significantly expands our storage portfolio, enabling HP to deliver customers an expanded suite of storage functionality, scalable capacity and interconnect options for every budget and performance requirement. With our strong channel and leading position in the industry-standard server market, we are ideally positioned to deliver this technology to customers worldwide." You betcha.

Bill Chambers, LeftHand's CEO, was pretty pleased too, saying: "Joining with HP is a natural fit for our customers and channel partners, giving them an expanded portfolio of server, storage and networking products and services that are already supported by LeftHand Networks' (products)."

The acquisition also deftly solves the IPO problem as in you have got to be mad to consider an IPO in the current insane financial climate where your investment bank could be taken over or collapse in a blink of an eye. LeftHand's venture capital backers will be well pleased and very relieved too.

It's a great deal for HP, less so for Dell which now faces stronger competition for its Dell/EqualLogic PS-Series iSCSI storage products. Still, it never was going to be left alone for long there and covetous eyes were probably being cast upon LeftHand from IBM as well as HP. The company will be integrated into HP's StorageWorks division. No news about potential LeftHand product rebranding or what senior and now enriched LeftHand personnel will be doing. ®

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