HP enters high-end disk array market

HP enters high-end disk array market

Partnership with Hitachi results in alternative to EMC Symmetrix

Dave Simpson

Zachary Shess

In a bold?and risky?move that may have negative consequences for long-time partner EMC, Hewlett-Packard last month announced a far-reaching OEM deal with Hitachi Ltd. and its global marketing arm Hitachi Data Systems (HDS). Hitachi and HP have developed a high-end disk array, based in part on HDS` Freedom 7700E, that analysts say could provide stiff competition for EMC`s Symmetrix arrays, which HP resells. Future joint development efforts of the three-year HP-Hitachi agreement will focus on storage management software and storage area networks (SANs).

As part of its mantra of providing choice to customers, HP officials say they will continue to resell and support Symmetrix arrays, but were quick to point out the advantages of HP`s alternative, the SureStore E Disk Array MC256. "EMC`s Symmetrix, with its aging architecture, will not meet our criteria of high availability and no single point of failure," says Marilyn Edling, general manager of HP`s Enterprise Storage Division. "We have real doubts about Symmetrix`s ability to achieve 100% availability."

"HP will continue to support Symmetrix for their existing customer base, but it is unlikely that they will sell any more of them," says David Hill, a senior analyst with the AberdeenGroup consulting firm, in Boston. "It is untenable longer term for HP to sell both its own storage systems and EMC`s."

Hill says EMC should be very concerned about HP`s move, but that HP also has a considerable challenge and that its move into the high-end array market is a major risk. "EMC has a very large installed base of very satisfied customers, so it will be very difficult for HP to break in to this marketplace," says Hill.

EMC`s approach to storage area networks (SANs), which is perceived as being proprietary, also led to the breach. At the HP-Hitachi announcement, David Scott, HP`s worldwide marketing manager for the Enterprise Storage Business unit, said that "EMC`s commitment to a proprietary SAN is too divergent from HP`s belief in an open SAN. Our close relationship with EMC might have led our customers to believe that HP supported a proprietary SAN such as EMC`s ESN [Enterprise Storage Network]."

Echoing those comments, one analyst says that HP?as well as most of the storage industry?sees EMC`s ESN as a "Proprietary Roach Hotel"?once you go in, you never go out.

But Aberdeen`s Hill notes that "because of all the interoperability issues, most vendor`s SANs are proprietary," which brings into question whether any vendor`s SAN is more "open" than another`s.

The financial reverberations of HP`s move into the high-end disk array field could be severe. According to analysts` estimates, HP accounted for $700 million of EMC equipment sales last year, a figure that was expected to exceed $1 billion this year. That amounts to roughly 20% of EMC`s total revenues for 1999, which are estimated to be around $5.1 billion. Conversely, EMC products are estimated to account for more than 50% of HP`s storage systems revenue.

In a Wall Street Journal article, EMC`s head of sales and marketing, Robert Dutkowsky, said that EMC had anticipated HP`s move and believes it can more than make up for the potential revenue loss.

HP`s array announcement was part of an overall storage architecture road map?called Equation?that is similar to SAN strategies such as Compaq`s Enterprise Network Storage Architecture (ENSA). HP hopes to differentiate its SAN approach from competitors` in its support for multiple storage vendors` systems, operating systems, and server platforms, including Unix, Windows NT, OS/390, and HP`s proprietary MPE platforms.

The announcement also included a wide variety of storage management software packages (see table); a 16-port Fibre Channel switch based on technology from Brocade Communications; and new versions of HP`s Intelligent Backup Server. Server-less SAN backup capabilities are due later this year, with support for OpenView OmniBack II and Legato`s Networker software. Other parts of the Equation lineup include the SureGear line of disk and tape subsystems and the SureGuide suite of consulting and support services. All of the products fall under the SureStore E family.

HP`s SureStore E Disk Array MC256 is based on HDS` 7700E, with HP-added firmware and Fibre Channel technology. HDS and Hitachi Ltd. will resell the MC256. The array scales from 60GB to 9TB with as many as 256 disk drives. Pricing starts at $250,000.

This article was originally published on June 01, 1999