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HP's 'All-in-One' Storage Family

Marlborough, MASS. -- HP  will introduce a new family of devices in September designed to make networked storage easy to manage for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMB).

HP executives at a StorageWorks event here today declined to provide specifics typically associated with storage array launches, including the formal product name, pricing or other metrics, such as capacity limits and data throughput speeds.

But officials described what the boxes will do, which seems to be a little bit of everything.

Debbie Young, worldwide marketing manager for HP's StorageWorks division, said HP is creating machines with all of the bells and whistles of a networked storage device, minus the costs and implementation challenges.

Young said the new arrays, which could cost as little as $5,000 for one terabyte  of storage, will allow administrators to share data between servers.

For example, admins will be able to pipe data from application servers such as Microsoft Exchange to external storage devices without assigning new disks to each application.

The shared storage approach, based on Microsoft Windows file servers, will also help companies avoid buying a new server or implementing a Fibre Channel  storage area network (SAN) .

Because data protection is also high on customers' priority lists, Young said HP is tuning the new products to handle disk-based data snapshots -- single copies of data -- that run hourly or daily.

Previously, SMBs had to rely on tape backup for each server, which could lead to extended backup windows and other delays.

The box will also be self-contained with a load of new management software to automate administrative and maintenance functions, a boon for small IT staffs.

These types of "all-in-one" functionality are a big deal for SMBs, which typically don't have the level of expertise on their often barebones IT staffs to set up complex storage networks, HP said.

Why is HP focusing its energy on such machines?

Young said customers have asked HP for such an inclusive networked storage device that can expand depending on data needs, is easy to manage and integrates with existing infrastructure.

She said that while the storage market for SMBs is growing dramatically, some 60 percent to 70 percent of small companies are still not moving to networked storage.

Rather, they are sticking with direct-attached storage (DAS)  because it is easier to implement and understand.

Most admins understand mailboxes, databases, file sharing and printers. Storage logical unit numbers (LUNs) , virtual arrays, backup software and volumes are often out of most admins' range of expertise, Young explained.

"Networked storage is still too complex," Young said. "You need an MBA to make a simple move to networked storage today."

Cost is also a significant factor. Companies that try to run as lean machines can't spend $20,000 or more on a networked storage system. Young said SMB customers want storage systems in the $5,000 to $10,000 range.

Market demand is a big driver and HP is intent on delivering the goods; the Palo Alto, Calif., company wants to maintain its lofty position in the SMB storage niche, where it competes with IBM , EMC  and Network Appliance  , among others.

While HP has traditionally been a force to be reckoned with in the SMB market, the company got dinged two years ago around this time after announcing that its third-quarter storage sales plummeted 15 percent from the previous year's quarter.

The following year, HP CEO Mark Hurd joined the company and has been steadily taking steps to streamline HP divisions and boost accountability to return to greater profitability.

Time will tell on all of these maneuvers. But so far, so good. In May, HP reported an 8 percent increase in StorageWorks sales in the second quarter from the same period in 2005.

Storage isn't the only part of HP's enterprise systems group to enjoy positive reinforcement.

The company's new four-processor blade server systems got quite a positive reception from industry analysts when HP unveiled it last month.