HP chimes in on automated storage management

Hewlett-Packard has started shipping a new set of software that automates many of the painstaking storage management tasks normally handled by an administrator, as the vendor works to keep pace with rival EMC.

HP began selling the OpenView Storage Provisioner software last week, adding a new tool for users of storage hardware acquired when the company bought Compaq Computer Corp. The software will allow users to set up policies that automate tasks such as freeing up more storage space for an application and backing up data. The new product is similar to EMC's Automated Resource Manager software that also started shipping last week.

"This offers customers a clear time and cost savings in that it cuts down tasks that used to take hours, days or even weeks to something that can be done in a few minutes," said Don Langeberg, director of marketing of network storage solutions at HP. "It also reduces the amount of human intervention, which can sometimes translate into human errors."

Storage system rivals HP and EMC are locked in a fierce battle to provide customers with software than can manage storage hardware from a number of vendors. Their efforts to open up their storage platforms and develop advanced software could have a big payoff for the end user, according to analysts.

"I know that both HP and EMC are aggressive about this and are on the front line," said Jamie Gruener, senior analyst at The Yankee Group, in Boston. "These tools help automate a lot of the manual tasks that administrators have been challenged by and are a top priority for the enterprise."

HP's new provisioning software fits into the company's OpenView Storage Area Manager (SAM) suite of software. It initially will work with the storage hardware HP acquired in its merger with Compaq and then will be extended to additional HP hardware and products from other vendors some time next year, Langeberg said.

Administrators can use the OpenView Storage Provisioner to handle a wide range of tasks. The software will automate the steps needed to designate a certain class of storage system for a particular application and also to free up more space for that application if the need arises. In addition, users can set up policies to tell the software when it should take snapshots of data for backup purposes. The new product also will alert administrators to potential problems such as dwindling storage capacity.

HP additionally has built in some billing functions for the OpenView Storage Provisioner. The software will report on how much storage a certain groups of users is consuming and what types of performance they receive, Langeberg said.

Pricing for an entry-level configuration of the software which includes the OpenView Storage Management Appliance needed to run the applications, will start at US$20,000, HP said. That configuration can support 2T bytes of storage.

The Yankee Group's Gruener said HP's new product fits in well with the company's overall goal of providing a broad set of software to manage multivendor storage.

"HP's Storage Provisioner is an important product, but it is also part of a larger framework that they plug it in to, whereas EMC's product is more of a crown jewel or a core product than something they would plug into something like OpenView SAM. But, I think for customers the end result is pretty much the same," he said.

EMC's product supports its own Symmetrix and Clariion systems and HP's StorageWorks systems, and HP is expected to follow on quickly with multivendor support, Gruener said. HP is probably waiting for the completion of a set of storage management standards that are being developed by the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) before adding in support for more hardware.

"HP is waiting for the finalized standards to arrive before moving ahead, which is a prudent thing to do at this point," Gruener said.

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