HP takes aim at SMB storage

Eager to snatch a piece of the burgeoning SMB storage market, Hewlett-Packard Co. has released its own answer to the network storage needs of smaller companies with a new StorageWorks All-in-One (AiO) Storage System

HP is the latest in the growing list of tier one vendors striving to make storage for small and medium businesses a low-cost reality. Earlier this year EMC Corp., and most recently Network Appliance, introduced small business storage appliances to their portfolios.

HP’s solution combines network attached storage (NAS), storage area network (SAN) and data protection under a single management framework.

Typically SMBs have two to three servers running applications such as Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle and accounting software all sitting on direct attached storage, said Parag Suri, category business manager for network storage solutions at HP Canada.

“DAS (directly attached storage) is not very efficient and difficult to manage because when you want to add more storage, you have to buy more servers or add more disk creating islands of storage and servers, making management a total nightmare,” said Suri.

According to HP, more than 60 per cent of SMB customers have not deployed networked storage, said Suri, mainly due to cost and complexity.

But with HP’s product “all the functionality is built into a single device with a simple management interface which works at the application level,” he said.

Sweet spot

The HP AiO, which runs Microsoft Windows Storage Server 2003 R2, is available in two models. The entry-level AiO400 comes with a raw Serial ATA (SATA) drive capacity of one terabyte and is listed at $7,000.

The AiO600 starts at 1.5TB or 3TB of SATA storage or 876GB of serial attached SCSI drives with a list price starting at $9,000.

Suri said the sweet spot for an AiO storage system is a customer with three to 14 servers and between 50 and 250 employees. “You don’t have to buy separate NAS, SAN and data protection technology plus the management interface is dead easy,” he added.

The AiO storage manager allows IT administrators to view storage use and data protection in an application-centric framework and in less than 10 clicks, said Suri, customers can set up shared storage for Exchange with Microsoft and HP best practice recommendations.

According to John Sloan, senior research analyst at Info-Tech Research Group, HP’s focus on the management layer of its AiO system puts the company at an advantage. “They’re (HP) taking an application oriented view which is a plus for them,” he said. In late 2005, Sloan said there was a renewed interest in mid-market storage solutions in the $50,000 price range, but over the last four months “the pendulum has shifted and vendors are now focusing on products for SMBs.” He said as Windows Server 2003 R2 finds its way into more NAS appliance products, “traditional NAS vendors will be peddling their appliances as iSCSI/NAS all-in-one type solutions.”

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