HP: iSCSI Still a Year Off

Expects to deliver native iSCSI arrays in mid-2004. What's keeping IP SANs in check?

May 15, 2003

3 Min Read
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Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) is now expecting to deliver a native iSCSI storage array in mid-2004 -- even further out than industry observers had been anticipating.

In an interview with Byte and Switch, Bob Schultz, who was recently appointed VP of HP's Network Storage Solutions group, said, "You'll see [iSCSI arrays] from HP in about 12 months from now."

The timing by the storage industry's biggest vendor in adopting iSCSI will certainly affect the broad adoption of IP SANs. Analysts had been expecting big OEMs like HP to start rolling out iSCSI storage systems -- which promise to deliver the benefits of block-level Fibre Channel SANs over an Ethernet infrastructure -- in the second half of 2003.

So far, Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP) has been the only major storage systems vendor actively promoting iSCSI support for its platforms. Its iSCSI push closely followed the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)'s ratification of the first version of the specification in February. Also adding momentum to the cause was Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), which said it would deliver an iSCSI driver for Windows in June (see Windows Soaks Up Storage, Microsoft to Unleash iSCSI, NetApp Blitzes on iSCSI, NetApp's IP SAN Wins a Fan, iSCSI Gets Go-Ahead, and IP SANs: Coming of Age).

But in general, iSCSI appears to be on a relatively slow ramp. One of the issues, says Schultz, is the moribund economy. "People are saying, 'I'm buying what I already have in place,' versus really putting new technologies in place. There's certainly been a lot of that over the last 18 months."That said, HP still sees promise for IP SANs. "If you look at iSCSI, there's a lot of potential still there for the workgroup market, to bring SANs to a whole new marketplace," Schultz says. "We just have to see how it all plays out."

Schultz was appointed head of HP's storage group this month in a reorganization -- one year after its merger with Compaq -- that combined the company's server and storage operations into a single hardware business unit. Howard Elias, previously general manager of the storage group, is now in charge of the Enterprise Systems Group's newly formed Business Management and Operations unit (see HP Fuses Server, Storage Units).

Is HP being overly cautious on iSCSI? Schultz says it's a matter of picking priorities. The company just last month introduced the midrange EVA 3000 line, which fits between its entry-level MSA1000 and underneath the EVA5000 (see HP, IBM Muscle Up Midrange).

But he denies that HP is worried that iSCSI-based storage arrays would cannibalize sales of its existing product lines. "We're working through a roadmap that says, 'How do we prioritize where the opportunities are, and make sure we're capturing them?' "

And he notes that HP is currently selling the SR2122 iSCSI storage router, developed by Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), which is designed to connect "stranded" servers over Ethernet to existing Fibre Channel-attached storage (see HP Kisses NAS, Nods to iSCSI, HP Takes iSCSI Baby Step, and HP to OEM Cisco's iSCSI Router).Because it was just introduced at the end of February, it's too soon to gauge how well the SR2122 is being received, Schultz says. But "there are certainly a number of customers we've talked to who have a small set of servers they want to connect into a SAN."

The bottom line is that HP -- which at one time expected to deliver an assortment of iSCSI-enabled storage products by the end of 2001 -- isn't losing business on the iSCSI front today, right?

"That's right," says Schultz. "That's what it comes down to."

Todd Spangler, US Editor, Byte and Switch

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