HP Opens Doors to CASA

It's not wedded to Brocade: HP plans to adapt CASA to work with switches from Cisco and others

April 19, 2003

3 Min Read
Network Computing logo

Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) says that while it has worked closely with Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) on the next version of its virtualization appliance, it has plans to work with intelligent switches from multiple vendors, including Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO).

HP has geared the next iteration of its Continuous Access Storage Appliance (CASA), which provides replication and data migration for heterogeneous storage environments, around Brocade's SilkWorm Fabric Application Platform (which for simplicity's sake will hereafter be referred to as "the Rhapsody switch"). CASA Version 6, due out in Q4, will connect the PC-based appliance to a 16-port Rhapsody switch to accelerate I/O functions (see HP, IBM Make Virtual Motions).

Brocade acquired Rhapsody Networks last fall in part because the startup had already made decent headway at major OEMs, such as HP and EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) (see Brocade Loads Code, Signs EMC, HP Picks Rhapsody, and Brocade Reupholsters Rhapsody).

But in an interview with Byte and Switch this week at Storage Networking World in Phoenix, Mark Sorenson, VP and general manager of HP's storage software division, noted that its work with Brocade on the Rhapsody switch is not an exclusive arrangement.

"Yeah, the Rhapsody deal is strategic for us, but why would you do this with only one vendor?" he says. "Frankly, we're going to let the customers decide which is best for that."Sorenson says that HP is currently developing CASA to work with Cisco's MDS 9000 Fibre Channel switch family. Cisco has said the Andiamo Systems Inc. switches will provide an "open platform for hosting third-party storage applications such as network-based virtualization and replication," but it has not released details of when this functionality will be available (see Cisco Takes Spinnaker for a Spin).

"The work we're doing with Cisco is less public, but we have their product in our lab," Sorenson says.

He also says HP has "had conversations" with McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDTA) about developing a version of CASA for McData's proposed application-oriented switch module.

Mike Gustafson, McData's senior VP of marketing, says the company's Intrepid 6064 and 6140 directors will be able to support an "intelligent" SAN services module, which he expects McData to deliver in 2004. "Right now, there's a lot of discussion about what goes into the intelligence, and the technology isn't as complicated as the business issues," he says. "When the market is going to be spending money on this, we know we'll be there."

For HP, the process of opening CASA to third-party switches involves "putting some client software on the switch," with command-and-control functions continuing to reside on the appliance, Sorenson says. In other words, he claims, it's not going to require a major overhaul of the core CASA software, which incorporates Compaq's VersaStor technology and the virtualization software of StorageApps, the startup HP bought two years ago.Some of HP's initial internal tests with the Rhapsody switch indicate that it runs two to three times faster than the standalone CASA box, according to Sorenson. But today, he says, customers aren't running out of headroom on CASA.

"Heterogeneous replication and virtualization are the killer app for this," he said. "This is the 'universal storage adapter' -- people are looking for ways to maximize their existing infrastructure."

However, at least one HP customer is eagerly anticipating a performance boost greater than the PC-based CASA alone can deliver. National Medical Health Card (NMHC), a company based in Port Washington, N.Y., that manages prescription drug programs, is using the CASA appliance today to handle replication among some of its midrange storage systems. Mark Deck, director of infrastructure technology at NMHC, says he's uncomfortable putting CASA in front of its high-end HP XP256 array, which runs an Oracle database, until HP optimizes it to work with special-purpose networking hardware.

"What they were talking about with Rhapsody had me champing at the bit," he says. "There's no doubt that I'm going to connect this to my enterprise storage, but only after they resolve this bottleneck."

Todd Spangler, US Editor, Byte and Switch

Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox

You May Also Like

More Insights