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Storage Battle Renewed in SMB Space

HP Monday refreshed its storage area networks (SAN) portfolio for small and medium-size businesses (SMB) in an effort to lure customers from a pool of business that analysts say will be very lucrative for the next few years.

The upgrade is part of a company-wide $750 million Smart Office strategy to lure SMBs to its side over rivals such as IBM or Sun Microsystems .

Neal Clapper, vice president of the Online Storage Division at HP, said the Palo Alto, Calif.-based vendor has enhanced its StorageWorks Modular Smart Array (MSA) family to support Serial ATA (SATA) drives, which are faster interconnects, consume less power and are less expensive than traditional parallel technologies.

Clapper told internetnews.com HP has also crafted a new line of entry-level Fibre Channel SAN switches to connect devices, as well as a tape autoloader for basic data backup and recovery. The products were announced the same day Dell launched its latest NAS (NAS) storage server for SMBs.

HP is picking an opportune time to unveil new storage products for a ballooning SMB market experts say is ripe for the trade of low-cost products. According to IDC, which tallied HP's fourth quarter 2003 software sales at $141 million, HP's revenue percentage grew the most from Q4 2002 to Q4 2003, at 28 percent.

In the market for external SAN hardware HP, which competes in this space with the likes of IBM, and EMC holds a 30.9 percent revenue share.

Clapper said offering SATA support, which many storage vendors have begun to do, will lure customers looking for more affordable ways to manage their data in SCSI and SATA environments. The SATA support for HP's drives includes management tools for servers and storage that allows IT managers to migrate traditional direct-attached storage (DAS) to modern SANs. This allows customers to use the same disk drives in both environments to cut costs.

Products in the MSA family will support SATA or traditional SCSI disk enclosures and can scale up to 24 terabytes. They also feature native Fibre Channel connectivity to help customers plug directly into a SAN. The new MSA offerings are expected to be available in the second quarter of 2004.

Based on Brocade Communications Systems technology, Clapper said the StorageWorks B-series switches support 8 and 16 ports, run at 2 gigabits per second and feature auto-sensing. The new 8-port switch is a single fixed power supply and has fixed fans for cooling while the 16-port is a dual switch with fixed power and fans. They are also backwards compatible with legacy devices. Pricing for the StorageWorks B-series SAN switches begins at $5000 with expected availability in April.

Lastly, Clapper said the StorageWorks DAT 72x6 tape autoloader is a solid storage drive for SMBs with limited IT support and budgets. A single tape drive inside an enclosure that holds up to six data cartridges, the DAT 72x6 cuts costs by automating data backup without the need for an IT worker to fiddle with knobs.

The back-up administrator loads the magazine with a week's worth of data cartridges and the autoloader automates data backup for a week. With storage capacity up to 432 gigabytes (GB), the DAT 72x6 comes with HP One-Button Disaster Recovery. The DAT 72x6 tape autoloader will cost $2,799 (internal model) and $2,999 (external model) with expected and will be available by month's end.