By Heidi Biggar
Ending speculation about its IP storage strategy, Hewlett-Packard recently said it will begin demonstrating its iSCSI "solution set" at industry events this fall, and expects to deliver first products early next year. The news comes out of HP's networked storage solutions organization (NSSO), and is an integral component of the company's Federated Storage Management Strategy (FSAM).
"We haven't been as clear as we need to be about where we stand in the networking space with iSCSI or with WAN encapsulation technologies like FCP and iFCP," says John McHugh, general manager of HP's networking division. "This announcement details our strategy and direction ? it tells where we are going and what choices our customers will have."
Though specifics about its iSCSI plans are just emerging, McHugh says the company has been actively involved in this area for about a year, dating back to its decision to combine its networking and storage divisions.
"We moved our networking organization into the storage organization with the objective of getting to this point," says McHugh. "By having our networking team work alongside our storage team, we've been able to get a clear understanding of the (not so trivial task) of running storage in an Ethernet environment." In particular, HP will leverage its experience with its Procurve line of Ethernet switches.
Unlike other vendors such as Alacritech, Cisco, CNT, Emulex, FalconStor, IBM, Intel, Lucent, Network Peripherals, Nishan and 3ware, which to date have announced "pre-iSCSI" point products, HP says it will offer a complete set of devices.
"Our goal is to let users build an entire solution from HP, or mix and match with best-in-class pieces (from other vendors)," explains Mark Thompson, HP's worldwide marketing manager. Initial products will include HP iSCSI disk arrays, tape libraries, switches, and OpenView management software, as well as Adaptec's AEA-7111C host bus adapter (HBA). The plan is to expand these offerings over time, creating a parallel product line to its Fibre Channel family.
By offering users a breadth of interoperable iSCSI products, HP hopes to drive adoption of iSCSI solutions in the market. The gating factor for HP, as well as other players in this space, is a finalized iSCSI specification. The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is expected to approve the standard later this year.
"IETF approval is a pacing item for us," explains Thompson. "We want to make sure all our products are interoperable with the standard so that people don't get stuck in a dead-end with proprietary solutions."
As for its Fibre Channel plans, those will continue on course. "We don?t believe iSCSI will blot out the sun and Fibre Channel will disappear," says Thompson. "What we want to do is give users more choice and more flexibility around how they implement storage area networks."