As most of my recent blogs have demonstrated (and a few more will continue to do so over the next couple of weeks) we are right in the midst of the IT vendor event season. One of the bigger events is HP Discover, the venerable vendor’s annual customer and partner shindig. One has to feel a little sorry for taxi drivers in Vegas this week – after all there are at least two (that I know of) large IT events going on this week…and it’s not that easy for the uninitiated to strike up a conversation with all us geeks about low latency or the pleasing reduction in the use of quiescing as a ‘Plan B’ management tool: they’ll be glad when the porn, cars, and music award events are back, I’m sure!
Meantime, back to the topic in hand…
HP is of course an extremely diverse organization, but I’m mainly going to focus my comments on what it is doing in storage. That said, much of the commentary here centers on the company’s embrace of converged IT…something it loves as only an extremely diverse vendor can! Now, HP also loves its opportunity in storage as only a company that hasn’t historically fulfilled its potential well can. Much as HP has had some very robust storage successes down the years (think MSA, XP, and EVA) at HP success is a relative thing. To smaller organizations the literally hundreds of thousands of the above systems that have been sold would be great. But at HP the company’s share of the external storage market has for many years dramatically trailed its market share in servers and blades – meaning that it wasn’t even gaining what should have been its ‘captive’ share in storage. However, more recently, the situation has been showing signs of improvement – there’s been the acquisition of 3PAR, and the focused strategy of a renewed management team.
And so we come to the new announcements today. The most significant is the (admittedly expected but nonetheless impressive) addition of an all-flash array to the 3PAR line-up. This product is built on the same architectural platform as all the 3PAR products, which means that - even before the addition of a few flash-specific abilities - it was born with all the data services and management facilities that foundation brings. Yes, naturally, it has more than enough speed and bandwidth for a broad range of workloads, but its greater significance is that it is another step on the path to convergence. Indeed, with this addition to its 3PAR line-up, HP is the only vendor that offers a genuine single product storage family that's capable of spanning - and essentially integrating - midrange platforms, all-flash devices, and all the way on up to enterprise storage that can scale to multi-petabytes. This situation – with everything integrated under the one management ‘umbrella’ is a long way removed from the company’s mix-and-match offerings of just a few years back.
Another example this week of the new intent is the announcement of a software version of HP’s StoreOnce backup functionality that will run on a VSA (Virtual Storage Appliance). The heterogeneous and agnostic attitude of VSA to servers, hypervisors, and storage means that this represents an opportunity to converge disparate infrastructures in addition to a key operational function.
Of course convergence doesn’t happen magically overnight; nor can market success be gained instantly, when the ship you have to turn is the size of HP. Having ground to make up in mid and high-end storage, HP has needed a combination of better products to offer and better market traction. Achieving the latter without having the former is all-but impossible; these latest announcements from HP demonstrate its continuing commitment to compellingly address the former so as to re-energize its storage business. [In terms of traction there was also a renewed emphasis on channel programs in HPs announcements this April].
The timing of all this may be fortuitous – as the IT world continues to grow more infatuated with, magnetically and financially attracted towards, and yet still trying to figure out (!) things such as convergence, hybrid clouds, and software-defined-whatever only a few soup-to-nuts vendors are likely able to objectively compose the optimum combinations, since they are more about account control than merely selling a point product. HP’s breadth and diversity likely caused some of its reduced focus on storage in the first place, but it may now turn out to be a key positive element and saving grace.