HP Tech Forum – Surprise! It’s A Storage Announcement!

So this was somewhat last minute. Okay, very last minute by my standards, but I have weird standards there. I prefer to have at least a few hours to write so I can take my notes, reread them three or four times, collect my thoughts, have a cigarette or a cigar, and let my brain wind down just a bit. No such luck here; compressed schedule. Disclosure: I got an invite, I got a toll-free dial-in number. Yep, that’s it. And many thanks to @HPStorageGuy Calvin Zito for inviting me! :)

So, HP has three products they’re ready to crow about, and I’m here to share some briefing details with you! The short list: HP P4800 Blade System SAN, HP EVA Cluster and HP StoreOnce Technology. Ready? Me neither, but here we go anyways!

HP P4800 Blade System SAN

HP’s decided to make a VDI play, and this is it. I’ve got to admit, it’s a really solid and well thought out play. Other vendors tend to make sweeping generalizations, or have pretty convoluted and somewhat unrealistic environments for their sizing, you get the idea. HP’s decided to throw all of that out and give customers edible cake.

The basic premise of the P4800 Blade System SAN is this; it’s their IP RAID technology (from the LeftHand acquisition obviously) put into a blade form factor for the C3000/C7000 chassis and coupled via SAS to the MDS600 high density storage system. It scales up to 4 nodes and 63TB in a single blade chassis. But you aren’t just buying blades and an MDS600. Because if you were, I’d be going “blah blah more fantasy sizing exercise.”

I’m actually excited about this one because it’s a reference architecture packaged for your consumption. It comes preinstalled in the rack, and you just add compute blades for your VDI workload as appropriate. As much or as little CPU as you need. HP has specific reference architectures for specific user points with a specific documented workload. It takes the voodoo out of the VDI. (Feel free to abuse this quote.) Because it’s based on LeftHand with enhancements, it also gives you management features like single click replication of golden images.

HP touts a 50% cost reduction with reference points starting at 400 VDI users and scaling up to 1600 VDI users in a single C7000 enclosure. Connectivity to VDI clients is handled by the C7000’s VirtualConnect and Flex10 technologies, which means data doesn’t cross the wire except to paint the screen or reach external applications. List price on the P4800 tips in at around $270,000USD – but that’s buying you a complete rack, blade chassis with SAS and Flex10 to build a standardized and reproducible VDI infrastructure in a single, easy to deploy package.

So yes. If you’ve been on the fence about VDI; this may be what you’re looking for. Or it may not. As with everything, it’s case-by-case, but I happen to think it’s the most forward thinking VDI product yet and worth your time to investigate.

EVA Cluster

Calvin’s probably going to be mad at me about this one, but I’ve got to be honest. This is really hard for me to get excited about. I’m definitely not one of the “EVA is dead!” people – as it was said on the call. EVA is and remains a core product for HP, and one they remain firmly committed to. The problem is that EVA seems to suffer from perpetual lag when put up against the competition, in nearly every area. It doesn’t help that many VARs refer to it as a dead product, or just shy away from it for various reasons.

HP’s looking to fix this with the new EVA Cluster product, which starts at a list price of only $63,600USD for the base kit – it only goes up, because you do kind of need disk. This, like the P4800, is a package play. That money buys you two racks, two EVA6400’s, and a two node HP StorageWorks SAN Virtualization Services Platform. Yes, that SVSP that they rebrand from LSI. For more money, you can upgrade to EVA8400’s, but you can’t have EVA4400’s in a new order. The intention here is to provide customers with an easier to stomach management system through HP CommandView integration.

Here’s the problem; it’s not EVA management that presents the problem. It’s that EVA has lagged behind, and SVSP has never found a following. (Disclosure; I have no direct experience on recent SVSP.) The number tossed about on the call was “a few hundred customers” with SVSP already. While this play will undeniably increase that count, compare this to an estimated 5,000 IBM SVC clusters – that’s 2+ nodes – as of late last year.

Now again, this is a package play which comes fully configured and ready to go from the factory. Roll the racks in, power them up, and start provisioning storage through CommandView. With the SVSP in front, you gain thin provisioning, something EVA still lacks. And while you have to order a pair of EVA6400 or EVA8400 arrays with the EVA Cluster product, you can attach other storage to it including EVA4400’s and the like, and it scales up to six nodes. So for existing EVA customers looking to expand, they’ve got a compelling new product here. A lot of improved utilization and performance was bandied about, but comparing it to other mid-range products, it’s hard to get excited.

There is some hope though, in an MPX200 update. The HP MPX200 Multiprotocol Storage Router will enable you to connect the purely fiber channel based EVAs to iSCSI and FCoE networks when released. So there may yet be reasons to get excited about EVA and it’s prospects!

HP StoreOnce Technology

Okay, so I’ve totally been holding back excitement here, because this really is the crowning jewel tonight. This is not acquired technology or partnership results or OEM agreements. This is entirely HP Labs developed thought and technology.

Deduplication is the big thing these days. To hear Lee Johns tell it, the biggest problem is rehydration when moving deduplicated data around. To hear me tell it, the biggest problem is rehydration when moving deduplicated data around. Because let’s be honest – it is. Deduplication technologies are now located at several different points in infrastructure – primary storage, post-backup deduplication, tape deduplication, file deduplication or block deduplication, and so on. It really is a mess.

Any time I need to move deduplicated data around – for example, I need to back up data from deduplicated primary storage, this happens: data is rehydrated, fed to the backup client, which writes it to disk, which then deduplicates the data again with a different method, then writes it out to tape.
When I restore, the data is rehydrated again from the backup software, rehydrated on my primary storage deduplication layer, then deduplicated there again.

If you don’t see the problem here, consider yourself lucky. HP’s solution to this is surprising in that it’s not an appliance, it’s not a hardware product, it’s a software development. HP StoreOnce is designed to provide portable – that is, reusable and movable while deduplicated – deduplication that can run on a variety of platforms in a variety of ways. The StoreOnce software itself actually sits atop standard operating systems and standard filesystems. Because it’s portable software, it can make up part of a hardware solution, a virtual appliance connected to your existing storage, you get the idea.

Our first production glimpse of HP’s new StoreOnce technology will come in the HP D2D2500, D2D4100 and D2D4300 Backup Systems. These are as the name implies, disk to disk backup systems in capacities of 3TB to 36TB usable before deduplication. This interests me little, because these are small boxes relatively speaking – I’d need a grid of them in most cases.

Coming up, we can expect to see a Virtual Appliance version of HP’s StoreOnce, a storage gateway perhaps, most definitely multi-node installations using HP’s Rapid Routing technology. But we won’t likely see it on the VLS9000; different products, different needs.

StoreOnce is firmly targeted at the IP space rather than the fiber channel space, and already works with CIFS, NFS, and iSCSI. To further improve on things, HP went ahead and improved their replication management to support a maximum of 15 sites. Not one to five, but fifteen. If somebody does more, could you please let me know, so I can pick my jaw back up? This is good stuff, and I see it being a big seller and technologically successful product for HP.

So, the takeaway:

I’m almost out of writing time, so it goes something like this:

  • HP P4800 Blade System SAN: Takes some of the voodoo out of VDI. If you’ve been thinking VDI, HP’s been thinking of you. Check this packaged product out today.
  • HP EVA Cluster: I can’t get excited about this. Sorry. If you’re an existing EVA customer, you’ll definitely be interested. If you’re a potential EVA customer, you might be interested. But if you’re a feature customer, there’s still a long way to go here. The MPX200 just might do the trick yet, though.
  • HP StoreOnce Technology: Okay, I can’t stop being excited about this. This is good stuff, but HP isn’t ready to start selling it to folks who will really leverage it like mad. SMB, the D2D family is for you. Medium to large enterprise, watch this space for when HP starts shipping larger scale StoreOnce.

You can check out more about today’s announcements over at HP’s StorageWorks highlights page and at their respective product pages as they go online.

Look for more from me on these products later. (Like when I’m not trying to crank out 12,000 words in a day. *grin*)

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