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HP Storage Tech Day

Last week I joined a dozen or so fellow bloggers and storage industry gadflies for a storage field day at HP's Fort Collins, Colo., facility. Much like the more ecumenical Gestalt IT Tech Field Days run by our own Stephen Foskett, HP Tech Days let vendors show off their shiny new products while the street-wise delegates asked tough questions and took no marketing-speak for an answer.

While it's always fun to be able to drive the conversation deep in the interactive briefings that are the core of tech days, I was already familiar with most of the HP storage lines, having worked with several of them. However HP did manage to bring out a few products that piqued my interest.

HP has decided to focus most of its storage development on what it's calling "converged storage," which primarily means that products from Lefthand iSCSI arrays to iBRIX scale-out NAS and StoreOnce backup appliances are implemented as applications running under a common Linux kernel on x86 server hardware. This approach combined with HP's broad server portfolio lets HP offer systems with an interesting mix of packages, like the P4800 Lefthand that combines blade servers and HP's high-density MDS600 shelf that crams 70 3.5-inch drives in just five rack units by using pull-out drawers.

The storage guys even have a neat little package all their own. The X5000 G2 NAS runs a Windows Storage Server cluster in a 3U package that holds two BL460 blades. The blade's SmartArray controllers are connected to 16 internal drives on a pull-out drawer, and maintain cache coherency like a modular SAN array to provide shared storage for the Windows cluster. Since WSS can host virtual server guests with Hyper-V, the X5000 chassis could be all the compute infrastructure a branch office needs.

The bloggers in the room all agreed we'd like HP to offer this server package for additional applications, such as SQL Server clusters or VMware hosting. Personally, I think there's a market for a Proliant version of the X5000 chassis.

We also took a deep look at the StoreOnce B6200 backup appliance. Holding up to 768 Tbytes of disk and ingesting 28 Tbytes per hour, the B6200 is HP's home-grown entry into the heavyweight ranks of the deduplicating appliance market that HP's been using OEMed Sepaton VTLs to address. The B6200 combines StoreOnce's deduplication engine with the iBRIX file system and data distribution technology. Up to four redundant pairs of controllers can be managed as a single system, but backup targets, and therefore deduplication realms, are constrained to a single two-node cluster. While StoreOnce may not have the mindshare of some of the other deduping appliances, it's No. 2 in the market, in no small part because of HP customer loyalty.

For me, the best part of the event was the lab tour--not just because it's the biggest data center I've been in for a long time, at 50,000 square feet with racks of servers and storage as far as the eye could see, but because it's an HP Labs test site dedicated to exploring how to reduce data center power consumption.

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