HP sees information protection as next storage battleground

HP Enterprise chief Dave Donatelli

HP Enterprise chief Dave Donatelli

LAS VEGAS – HP Monday fired its opening salvo in what company executives called “the next battleground” in the storage wars, the information protection (ie: backup) front.

The company announced a trio of initiatives this morning as its HP Discover event begins here, including what it calls the industry’s first storage area network, performance enhancements to its StoreOnce family of backup products, and a new version of its Data Protector management suite.

It’s part of what HP Enterprise chief David Donatelli called “a transformation of the storage industry” based on the company’s push towards converged infrastructure, and comes amongst some strong growth for HP (and its 3Par purchase in particular) in the market. Donatelli reported that 3Par has grown 100 per cent or more year-over-year for each of the last six quarters.

Information protection and backup continue to be a growing opportunity, Donatelli said in a press conference Monday morning, because of the growing amount of data being stored by businesses, as well as growing demands in terms of compliance and legal discovery on that data.

“It means your backup has to go faster just to stay even,” he said.

The biggest infrastructure change announced here was the “flat SAN” via the company’s VirtualConnect product. The technology has already been HP’s chief building block for simplifying the data network in its Converged Infrastructure strategy, but now its turning its attention to storage.

“It’s in our DNA,” said HP storage chief David Scott, of the flat SAN concept. “Converged Infrastructure is all about reducing complexity.”

By using Virtual Connect to take out a number of tiers in the storage network, the company claims a 2.4x provisioning boost and 55 per cent lower latency than a competitive stack from VCE, while using 86 per cent fewer components.

“It delivers tremendous efficiency and agility at cloud scale,” Scott said.

It’s a free upgrade for existing BladeSystem and 3Par customers, but Tom Joyce, vice president of marketing, strategy and operations for HP Storage, said it’s a significant opportunity for the company’s partners. Given that it’s based off the same Virtual Connect infrastructure familiar to most HP server partners, it’s a great on-ramp for infrastructure-focused partners looking to grow their storage business.

“It’s a natural extension of that they’re already doing,” Joyce said. And because it’s a familiar system to most of those VARs, Joyce said it “dramatically simplifies” SAN implementation for solution providers. “It’s a great way for them grow that pie and get more storage into the conversations they’re having.”

The company also announced a new version of its Data Protector software, version 7.0, which offers connectors to the company’s Autonomy IIDOL engine, adding to existing backup search capabilities the ability to search with more context. “Fundamentally, we believe this is a huge innovation,” Scott said, particularly when it comes to the ability to be complete when meeting discovery requirements. Using the Autonomy engine, Scott said by way of example, a search for backed up content related to HP CEO Meg Whitman would not only return items with Whitman’s name on then, but referring to “HP’s CEO” – just not those that predate Whitman’s taking her new role. That kind of ability to search based on context rather than just keywords becomes more crucial as the number of petabytes being backed up continues to grow, Scott said.

The Autonomy hooks also allow customer to use the company’s 50 PB private cloud for backup, which Scott described as “the largest storage-as-a-service environment in the industry.”

Joyce said that although the software has new capabilities, “nothing has really changed for existing Data Protector VARs and resellers.”

The third major announcement on the morning was the announcement of the availability of HP’s Catalyst software for the B6200, the high end edition of the company’s StoreOnce backup products. The addition of Catalyst is all about backup performance, HP said, by giving customers flexibility as to what gets backed up where – allowing, for example, a layer of deduplication to be done at the endpoint, easing the amount of bandwidth required for the master backup, and allowing the comparison of a reduced-size backups for the purpose of further deduplication.

The result, HP says, is the ability to do store-side deduplication at about 100TB per hour, a figure the company says is three times the performance of rival EMC’s Data Domain 9900, announced at the recent EMC World conference here.

“It turned out their lead lasted precisely two weeks,” Scott quipped, referring to the announcement at EMC World here a fortnight ago.

Underscoring the announcements are moves on HP’s part to make the storage business much more channel-centric. Joyce said that includes a move four months ago to make StoreOnce a channel-exclusive product line, albeit one with an HP “sell with” model. Also around the timeframe of the company’s Global Partner Conference in February, the company announced a series of HP-branded services delivered by partners under the ServiceOne banner.

And although the product line may be expanding, Joyce said HP is trying to make the message for partners “dramatically simpler,” focusing on the 3Par storage platform and StoreOnce as its universal backup deduplication offering.