HP is reselling Fibre Channel host bus adapters (HBAs) from storage networking company, Emulex, across its entire family of blade servers. As users adopt the smaller form factor servers, they are increasingly interested in attaching their blades to storage area networks (SANs), according to both firms.
Emulex already has a similar HBA agreement in place with IBM or its eServer BladeCenter servers. Given that today's blade market is largely a two-horse race between Big Blue and HP, with the deal under its belt Emulex is well positioned with a foot in both camps.
The deal with HP is a non-exclusive original equipment manufacturer (OEM) agreement.
HP already resells HBAs from Emulex's rival, QLogic, with its blades, according to group manager for HP BladeSystem product marketing, Steve Gillaspy. "There's a very strong customer demand for the Emulex Fibre Channel HBA across our blades," he said.
The Emulex-based Fibre Channel HBA for HP BladeSystem, which uses a version of the storage company's sixth-generation 2-gigabit-per-second Thor input/output controller, was available now and could be used either with Linux or Microsoft's Windows operating systems, executive vice-president of worldwide marketing for Emulex, Mike Smith, said.
The arrangement builds on an eight-year relationship between HP and Emulex, according to both executives.
"We have a tremendous installed base [with HP's servers]," Emulex's Smith said. "We [already] have more than 400,000 Emulex HBAs in HP SANs." HP's Gillaspy agreed. "HP sales of HBAs are very strongly weighted to Emulex."
Both Smith and Gillaspy see much opportunity in the blade market where they estimate the number of servers tied to SANs at around 50 per cent, much higher than the rate of SAN attachment for general-purpose servers.
As part of the deal, HP would fully integrate Emulex's HBAnywhere HBA management tools suite into its Systems Insight Manager (SIM) software, Smith said.
HP first rolled out SIM in 2003, but in February the company announced the systems management software would combine both server and storage management.
More efficiently managing systems is where blade users will likely realise true cost savings, according to Gillaspy.
So far, HP customers weren't talking about interoperability between different vendors' blades, but about the company making sure the small form factor servers worked seamlessly in the data centre, Gillaspy said.
Having the Emulex HBA product rounded out HP's portfolio, as the company already offered Fibre Channel switches from Brocade Communications Systems and McData along with an Ethernet switch from Cisco Systems, he said.
As the blade market grows, Emulex will investigate signing OEM deals with other blade players, according to Smith.
"We're certainly looking to be as aggressive as we can be in penetrating the blade systems market," he said.
One possibility is Dell where it would be a matter of extending an additional reseller agreement to cover blades. However, Smith said Emulex had nothing to announce yet on the Dell front.
Last month, Emulex signed its first ever OEM deal with Sun Microsystems for its HBAs, a move also driven by user pressure.