Is HP Storage Discovering Itself?

With commendable fanfare at its Discover event earlier this week, the storage arm of HP has rolled out what it is spinning to be the biggest announcement since it acquired 3PAR. A cynic might use the same words in a different order—since the announcement this week essentially cemented the 3PAR take-over of HP storage. The key players have been in place for a while as the bright yellow bezels have flown off HP’s shelves (I like to use somewhat consumer-ish terminology so that all of HP and all of the world realizes that storage can make revenue and margin for HP just as much as—and for all I know more than—PC’s, printers, and toner!). Anyhow, aside from the players, now the products are in place too—with the centerpiece of this week’s announcement being the new midrange 3PAR offering.

And let’s make no bones about it: The new HP 3PAR StorServe 7000 Storage (can’t we just call it "sir"?!) is an excellent product, which ever way you look at it….function, pedigree, whatever. More importantly, it packs a genuine "enterprise punch" for a "midrange price"…and this in a market where HP—despite, or because of, the popular and venerable EVA—has not (to continue the analogy) even punched its weight for a long time. Indeed, HP was at pains to point out the vast new TAM (Total Addressable Market) that it could now reach. Of course, having someone’s address—this is a new analogy!—is not the same as arriving and being welcomed in….having "something to bring to the party" is great, but you still have to get an invite! More of this later.

Back to the product: It is positively bristling with goodies—everything from being a unified platform to having an all-solid-state option. There’s all the "thinning" any IT pro could possibly want, as well as easy, non-disruptive upgrades ("Persistent Ports"), a performance QoS ability (based off the quad controller abilities), excellent data availability ("Persistent Cache" helps here), and sophisticated migration and failover capabilities (with "3PAR Peer Motion" and "Peer Persistence"). Along with the other storage-related announcements that HP had (HP StoreAll is the big-data-cloud-Autonomy-mega search-object repository largely developed by HP Labs…while the upgraded HP StoreOnce is now a serious dedupe and data protection contender), the new "polymorphic" 3PAR product seems to have everything. If you’re wondering, "polymorphic" is something that exists in different forms, sizes, and shapes. The bottom line is that there’s a lot "there," close to an abundance of techno-riches.

Right now though, there’s one thing missing: market share. This is the rub, the crux, the main issue for HP. The product looks good (and that’s being extremely analyst-conservative…the product actually looks great) but HP itself hasn’t looked so good of late as we all know...and, no, when I say "of late" I’m categorically NOT talking about the last few months and year or two of scandals, intrigue, poor results, and supposition. When I say "of late" I mean the last many years—decades even—when HP has not been able to strike success in the storage world. It’s not been completely a lack of product—there have been some great lower-end devices (those from Dot Hill for instance) and the superb ultra-high-end boxes jointly developed with Hitachi. But storage at HP has never quite clicked for one reason or another—maybe it’s a lack of focus, maybe the lack of decent products across the whole range at once.

Well, now there’s focus, and now there’s enormous capability across the range with the broad 3PAR platforms. HP says it wants to improve ROI for users by having a single architecture that goes from low-to-high end, and that can cover block, object, and file, while using common data services. It’s a good vision and HP is obviously starting to deliver. Focus also comes from HP realizing that commercial IT is probably one of its best bets for a more successful future and storage has to become a (more) successful part of that. Can it execute? The major reason for hope is the existing 3PAR product itself—sales of that have been running up nearly 90% y/y. In other words, give the HP field force a decent, credible vision (converged) and a decent, appropriate product (3PAR) and it looks as if it can start to turn the tide; with the new announcements this week, the biggest "discovery" is that the HP storage division is making growth and success at least look possible.

Topics: Storage IT Infrastructure