While the title of HP's press release today may have just a smidgeon of hyperbole ("HP Makes Software-defined Storage Available to the World"), what it covers is indeed significant. Before I comment, the gist is this: Purchasers of Intel Xeon E5 v3 processor-based servers can now get a no-cost 1TB HP StoreVirtual Virtual Storage Appliance (VSA) license. That VSA is not an appliance per se, but it is software that applies common storage functionality using the storage that is typically provided as a part of any server purchase. It is well proven, as it is in essence the management system that attracted HP to buy LeftHand.
So, why is this significant? After all, it reads as if it is very specific. To some extent this is true, but the designated Intel processors are very mainstream and, notably, while VSA is HP software, the offer applies to the processor (Intel's storage GM is quoted in the release) and thus includes servers from Dell, IBM, and Lenovo as well as HP. And, yes, it's only a 1TB freebie but it can easily be expanded with add-on storage under the same software control...and after all, the idea is to get those users who were either hesitant or simply parsimonious to at least try storage virtualization. Of course, HP hopes you'll be back for more, but there's nothing wrong with that: the cost to HP is minimal and the upside is healthy
So, yeah, it's a marketing gambit...but nonetheless it's interesting. It is another step in the inexorable shift of storage function into software that is server- and/or OS-based rather than being integrated into a storage array of some sort. There's plenty of logic behind the move, which is why you also see new alternatives (such as VMware's similarly named VSA, and Microsoft's Storage Spaces) joining some of the more established storage "hypervisors" (such as those from IBM, HDS, and DataCore...as well as EMC's ViPR) at all scales of operation.
Of course, the world doesn't all change tomorrow; but whether you want to call this software-defined storage or simply a part of the logical evolution of storage functionality to be more of an app in an integrated processing platform, the writing is on the wall. Naysayers might say the font is currently small, but it's worth paying attention to this - and similar - moves.