HP Storage: Turning the Screw

By | June 8, 2011

Yesterday I mentioned that I came to HP Discover in Las Vegas to see if the drive and energy that HP are displaying in the Networking world was filtering through to their storage game. 

With this in mind I’ve put myself about as much as possible, including gate crashing David Scott’s (SVP of HP Storage) lunch table and firing every question I could think of at him…

NOTE: In the interests of disclosure, HP have paid for my travel, hotel and some of my food while attending HP Discover. However, the cheapscates only paid for me to fly in economy class. Something tells me Dave Donatelli and David Scott dont fly such distances in economy class!  Anyway….

Why I’m Sceptical about HP and Storage

Experience has led me to the point where I don’t trust HP with storage.  For as long as I can remember, storage been to be a very poor relation in the HP family.  I have also been pretty unimpressed with the way HP handled EVA after the Compaq acquisition/merge.  EVA is a great technology that was way ahead of its time, but HP’s handling of it was nothing short of a train wreck.

 

 new eva1

  5th Gen EVA in all her glory

Where HP Storage is Today

There is little doubt that HP have modern and innovative storage technologies – not least among these are the technologies they have acquired – LeftHand, IBRIX and 3PAR.  And personally I feel that some of these are best of breed.  But even those that I don’t consider best of breed are still noteworthy technologies with a ton of potential.

Modern architectures matter.  They enable faster speed to market for new features and tend to better address today’s modern business workloads and demands

Best of breed matters.  You’d have to be crazy not to deploy on best of breed.

So that’s a tick in the technology box.

But they need a lot more than just the technology….

HP StorageWorks becomes HP Storage

David Scott, former CEO of 3PAR, now heads up the HP Storage business.  And I can vouch that there are no flies on him, he understands technology and storage, oh and business.

As a side note, HP have retired the StorageWorks brand in favour of simply HP Storage.  A good move, considering it has not had the reputation its engineers deserved for a very long tim.  However, it will take a hell of a lot more than a simple name change.

Having David Scott at the helm of the good ship HP Storage is a good thing and HP will do well to keep him.  He came across as hugely passionate about the 3PAR product and its future, and seemed genuinely excited about the future for HP Storage.  And importantly, In his own words, he is “calling the shots in HP Storage”.  After the conversation with David I felt reassured that HP plan on exploiting the full potential of the 3PAR technology.

David talked of plans for native peer based federation.  This is already available on LeftHand  and is being worked on in 3PAR.  At a high level (and no details were revealed) it sounds like this will be co-operation/teaming of peer arrays, without the need for an additional appliance such as VPLEX (the last bit about VPLEX was confirmed by David Scott).  This type of technology promises to be huge! 

Talk is cheap, but it sounds like HP are committed to keeping 3PAR best of breed, building on its best in class extent/page based architecture and leading Thin Provisioning technology, and adding peer based federation..

HP Storage Leadership Team

David also mentioned that following the acquisition of 3PAR, HP have managed to hang on to most of the original 3PAR engineering team.  This is crucial as well as a sign that the passionate 3PAR engineering team believe that HP will do the right thing with their creation.  This apparently did not happen with the EVA engineers and is one of many reasons EVA stalled while under HP’s command.

Sticking to the people theme, David reports in to Dave Donatelli, former Chief Sitting Bull of all things Symmetrix at EMC. Donatelli’s storage pedigree is clearly not in question. Nor is his reputation as a ruthless task master and man who gets results.  He has a reputation of getting results and that’s a good thing for HP Storage.

People and Good leaders matter. HP Storage has the right people at the top and leading from the front.

Scott also talked about important changes that have been made to the sales structure within HP.  Changes that mean key people report in to Donatelli, allowing Donatelli to keep the sales folks focussed.  While boring and not technical, things like this are crucial, especially to massive organisations like HP.  If the sales force aren’t on song then it doesn’t matter how good your tech or your strategy is, you will fail.

Marketing

I don’t think HP has good marketing, and marketing is important.  It pains me to say it, but in today’s world good marketing is as important, if not more important, than good engineering.

Like it or not, this matter A LOT!  I’m not convinced that HP has good marketing, so this will need to be addressed.

In Summary

Talk is cheap and everything looks good on PowerPoint.  But I came here to see what HP are doing to sharpen up their storage act.  I can honestly say that I am coming away from the event really impressed.

HP have the technology, the leadership, the engineers, the focus, the vision.  And they sure as hell have the wonga! 

However, executing in the field is hard,  and it takes a lot of effort to turn a big tanker like HP. But the ship appears to be turning, and oh my goodness….. if they start executing, they could shake this market up like nobody else!

On the other hand, they could stutter on as they have in the past and remain an also-ran in the high margin storage business.

Thoughts and comments welcome.

5 thoughts on “HP Storage: Turning the Screw

  1. Tim Moyle

    V interesting article. Couple of typos in your summary…cam (came) and form (from)…Cheers, Tim.

  2. Adam

    Bang on… as I'm also here and couldnt agree more. Although I was a bit surprised that you didnt talk about the marriage of iBRIX/Lefthand/StoreOnce into HP's new converged/unified Store360 solution… Would love to hear what you thought on that end?

  3. Nigel Poulton Post author

    Adam,

    Thanks for reading. On the topic of Store360, I recorded a podcast with Lee Johns (Director of CI or something like that) and some other guys on that very topic. Will post a link. I may also write something up on here too.

    Nigel

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