HP Kisses NAS, Nods to iSCSI

Edges into IP SANs with Cisco router, as it peps up NAS line and slashes prices

February 25, 2003

4 Min Read
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Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) today announced that it's now shipping a Fibre Channel-to-iSCSI gateway device supplied by Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and that it has pepped up the performance of its NAS line -- while slashing prices on the new models (see HP Debuts FC-to-iSCSI Router and HP Cranks Up NAS, Services).

But HP's iSCSI move, first reported by Byte and Switch, is merely a tentative dipping of its toe into IP storage waters. The 1U-high StorageWorks SR2122 iSCSI storage router, custom-built by Cisco, has two Gigabit Ethernet ports and two Fibre Channel ports and is intended to connect "stranded" servers to existing SAN resources (see HP Takes iSCSI Baby Step and HP to OEM Cisco's iSCSI Router).

"We're giving customers a simple, quick, and easy way to connect to that storage pool," says Mark Nagaitis, director of product marketing for HP's storage infrastructure and NAS division.

In contrast to HP's cautious approach to iSCSI, Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP) last week announced an aggressive program to offer native iSCSI support -- for free -- across all its NAS filers. The announcements come after the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) earlier this month officially ratified the iSCSI specification (see NetApp Blitzes on iSCSI and iSCSI Gets Go-Ahead).

Why did HP choose to introduce a two-port router, a configuration that Cisco does not itself sell, instead of Cisco's SN5428, which provides eight FC ports? "We chose this device because of the customer requirements," Nagaitis says. "They're not looking for massively high performance for this -- they're looking for raw connectivity."For the same reason, HP won't sell iSCSI-optimized adapters, which offload TCP processing from host processors. "On the server side, depending on the performance you want, TCP acceleration is a good thing but not absolutely required," says Nagaitis. According to HP's internal testing [ed. note: grain-of-salt alert!], the SR2122 provides aggregate throughput of 140 MByte/s.

"Obviously, this is not the highest-performance solution," Nagaitis says. "As soon as customers start talking about performance, we tell them to plug directly into the Fibre Channel SAN."

HP is positioning the FC-to-iSCSI router as a way to consolidate storage and centralize backup, without requiring a customer to buy Fibre Channel host bus adapters (HBAs). The SR2122, available now, has a list price of $9,995 -- which, we should point out, would buy you at least 10 FC HBAs. An HP spokeswoman says that's not the point, though: The router is not intended to be an alternative to HBAs; rather, it's "a way to extend the SAN across stranded servers where FC was not feasible in the past."

HP says the router has been qualified for Intel Corp.-based servers, including HP's ProLiant BL blade servers, as well as its StorageWorks Modular SAN Array (MSA) 1000 and Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA) systems; and backup applications including those from Veritas Software Corp. (Nasdaq: VRTS) and Computer Associates International Inc. (CA) (NYSE: CA).

Meanwhile, HP has cranked up its NAS lineup -- which the company is calling version 2 -- and is able to promise better performance at lower starting prices. The upgraded NAS boxes move to Intel Xeon 2.8 GHz processors, which helps boost performance 25 percent, HP claims.It's also chopping list prices for all its NAS boxes. The b2000, a 2U-high system with a starting configuration of three 146-GByte drives, was previously $12,000; now, it's $8,000. The b3000, which connects into an MSA 1000 array, drops from $44,000 to $24,995, a price that includes an MSA 1000 configured with four 146-GByte drives. Finally, the e7000, a NAS head end that connects into HP's XP or EVA storage, drops from $48,000 to $34,995 (storage sold separately).

"This is not a baby step forward in terms of price/performance," Nagaitis says. He adds that with the souped-up E7000, "we're now able to scale beyond BlueArc Corp., beyond NetApp."

In other HP storage news, the company is announcing that its XP high-end RAID systems now handle up to 148 TBytes of raw storage in a single system using 146-GByte, 10,000-RPM drives. This certainly isn't surprising, given that Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), which supplies its Lightning arrays to HP, made the same announcement last month (see HDS Launches Preemptive Strike). HP will also offer the 146-GByte drives for the EVA, allowing it to support up to 34 TBytes behind a single pair of controllers and up to 24 TBytes per cabinet.

Finally, HP is expanding its storage services. Among its new offerings is a data migration service, based around the OpenView CASA (Continuous Access Storage Appliance) for open systems environments (see HP Recasts Virtualization Box). For mainframe data migration, HP will use Fujitsu Software Technology Corp. (Softek)'s TDMF product.

Todd Spangler, US Editor, Byte and Switch

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