12:10 PM -- Hewlett-Packard's purchase of Polyserve, announced last night, raises the question: Why would HP go to all the trouble to buy a company with which it already enjoys a solid OEM relationship? And, why now? (See HP Bags Polyserve.)
Clearly, HP values Polyserve's network file virtualization capabilities, which include clustering and support for iSCSI -- de rigeur features for any company aiming to play in today's ultra-competitive NAS market. And clearly, HP sees NAS, one of the hottest growth areas in storage, as strategic enough not to want to share its partners with anyone else.
But even with Polyserve in its pocket, HP can't claim any first-strike advantage against EMC and NetApp when it comes to basic NAS features. And none of the three are yet in the league with NAS startups like Exanet, Isilon, OnStor, and Panasas when it comes to advanced capabilities. (See EMC Takes CDP Downmarket , Isilon's Counting on Clusters, and Clusters & CDP: Well Matched.)
Is HP too late? That remains to be seen. Much depends on whether the Polyserve buy can liven up channel sales. After all, HP, like EMC and NetApp, plays a numbers game. If its channels can see more value in HP's IT wares across the board, so much the better. And as StorageIO analyst Greg Schulz pointed out last night, Polyserve isn't just about clustered NAS; it's also got some interesting database consolidation and migration capabilities that Schulz sees as intriguing complements to virtual storage.
The pressure's on. HP is at a crucial juncture. The world is watching whether the vendor can leverage what it's got in a creative way. If it can, EMC and NetApp will have to watch out. If it can't, well -- let's not go there just yet.