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HP storage biz ready for battle again

Focusing on 3PAR, IBRIX, StoreOnce and LeftHand

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It's HP Discover in Vienna. Florence and the Machine's You've Got the Love is blasting out as the key-note session hall fills up with around 7,000 people. HP is bursting with energy and the message is: HP is back.

This was echoed by Meg Whitman, who was in Vienna too. She acknowledged that things had been hard, saying: "All of us at HP could do with a little less excitement in our lives ... This kind of CEO transition is very hard."

HP's core strength is its infrastructure products portfolio, and storage is a key part of that portfolio. Storage supremo David Scott and his people are doing what Dell is doing with its storage product lines and converging and integrating them. However, Scott says, HP is doing it better and not being a: "mini-me."

Scott says HP has the best storage intellectual property bar none. That's partly why Gartner promoted its Magic Quadrant position. The storage guys are hyped, the 3PAR products are going gang-busters and StoreOnce deduplication has raised its game with a new box which is faster than Data Domain's DD890 range-topper. It also has integration into the Data Protector backup product, and the idea of moving deduped data around HP's product technologies and customer use cases without re-hydrating it is getting the storage guys excited.

There is a renewed emphasis on IBRIX as a scale-out filer platform, a belief that the P4000 (LeftHand) can eat Dell EqualLogic's lunch. The four jewels in HP's storage crown are 3PAR, IBRIX, StoreOnce and LeftHand, as David Scott tells it, with lots of interesting integration possibilities.

Yesterday's men, so to speak, meaning EVA and the OEM'd Hitachi VSP, are solid and valued, but they are not future development platforms, at least that's El Reg's impression. Of course HP will look after and support customers with these devices, but the development and marketing and sales action is centred on the four product technology jewels.

HP storage folks are open about new trends. Big data? IBRIX is a truly great scale-out platform. Object storage and the cloud are a great fit? Agreed. HP needs a terrific scale-out box for object storage in the cloud? Certainly, and IBRIX with its 15PB address of space can store billions of objects, though being equipped with a RESTful API set. That's right, the objects are stored on a file system.

All-flash array storage has a lot of potential? Yes indeed, but customers will want the rich set of data services they are used to having with disk drive arrays. Scott doesn't believe the flash array start-ups are delivering these services. Is HP going to deliver an all-flash array with these services? Scott smiles and says HP is aware of the issues with all flash arrays.

Things not being mentioned in Vienna by HP, at least, not in our hearing: Leo Apotheker, agility, Mark Hurd. Things that are being emphasised: converged infrastructure; cloud and what it takes to get there; getting close to HP's top 500 customers with long-term sales and pre-sales relationships; and getting closer to HP's top 200 EMEA channel partners and giving them dedicated sales support.

Looking to the future

Meg Whitman said she had talked to around 70 customers since becoming CEO some nine weeks ago.

She said: "I think over the last year we confused people about who we are as a company. [The] number one question is: what is your strategy going forward? ... HP is the world's largest provider of IT infrastructure, SW, services and solutions to individuals and organisations of all size ... We bring scale [and] will build on our strengths to bring better value to our customers [and] expand into other markets and arenas."

HP has its confidence back. It's uniting under Whitman's reign and is ready to come roaring back. Now it's down to execution, and as Queen Meg knows; the execution has to be good or it's off with her own head. ®

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