HP's partner search

If you think making storage devices from different vendors coexist harmoniously in your datacenter is difficult, consider how baffling it must be for H to consolidate two distinct -- and possibly overlapping -- lines of storage products from premerger Compaq and Hewlett-Packard.

You would think that the new HP would already have a full house of hardware and software storage solutions, and no need for more from outside the company. But a recent torrent of announcements seems to indicate otherwise.

Take, for instance, the issue of storage virtualization. HP firmly believes that for enterprise class SANs, virtualization should have its roots in the network. However, despite a large offering of servers and storage arrays, HP doesn't have control of the switch technology needed to make that a reality.

Therefore, HP is strengthening ties with longtime partner Brocade Communications Systems Inc. and injecting HP VersaStor virtualization intelligence into a new switch (part of the Brocade SilkWorm Fabric Application Platform) that Brocade will deliver later this year. Incidentally, Brocade recently completed the acquisition of Rhapsody Networks Inc. and its technology to create fabric applications deemed instrumental to the SilkWorm platform and conditional for the co-development of a VersaStor-enabled switch.

HP is courting Cisco Systems Inc. as well, pursuing joint development of features and smooth interoperability of popular Cisco networking gears with HP Utility Datacenter solutions.

When put together, these pieces fit into HP's big picture, extending its VersaStor virtualization, already available for major arrays, not only to the fabric but also to HP's own CASA (Continuous Access Storage Appliance) line. CASA offers storage services such as snapshots, replication, and storage migration in a multivendor environment.

On the NAS side, Network Appliance Inc. is joining heads with Hitachi Data Systems Corp. and Dell Computer Corp. is scaling its PowerVault on EMC Corp. arrays, while HP is strengthening its bond with Microsoft Corp. to intensify StorageWorks Windows Powered NAS appliances. You won't have to travel far to see those solutions in action because the two companies have planned a marketing tour of major U.S. and Canadian cities beginning this month.

Also making a buzz is Sun Microsystems Inc., with a virtualization platform that doesn't reside in the servers, the F switch, or the array itself. The virtualization technology acquired from Pirus Networks Inc. is almost ready, yet strangely Sun will not initially sell it as a product; rather, its professional service partners will use it to offer enterprises storage services.

This scenario probably exists because the virtualization technology initially will be only a single-purpose device delivering snapshot functions across arrays for all vendors. In the interim, Sun is working on bringing replication functionality to the virtualization platform and presumably to other applications that currently run in the host or the array.

What does this mean in the near term? So far, not a lot -- but it does show that vendors are still trying to figure out just how to make virtualization a reality. Once that reality arrives, users will reap the benefits.

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