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HP Goes to Extremes in Petabyte Storage

Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) is poised to push out a high-capacity storage box aimed at enterprises in need of massive, scalable data storage -- potentially even beating EMC to the punch.

The launch of the HP StorageWorks 9100 Extreme Data Storage System (ExDS9100) is big news for the company, which is in the unique position of edging out its rival on its home turf. EMC (NYSE: EMC) is allegedly on the brink of announcing a similar box itself.

"This is no small announcement as it's amazing that's it coming from HP," Mark Peters, an analyst at Enterprise Storage Group, told InternetNews.com. "They used to wait to see what competitors were doing and then do something."

With a maximum configuration of 820TB of capacity, the HP StorageWorks 9100 Extreme Data Storage System (ExDS9100) is aimed at enterprises juggling multi-petabyte data environments without the traditional baggage such as a big footprint and high power costs.

"Some enterprises are dealing with five-fold data growth year to year, but you can't grow your storage labor and storage operations budget in response," Patrick Eitenbichler, the director of marketing, HP StorageWorks, told InternetNews.com.

In response, the product features a common management interface designed to reduce labor needs and offers up to a $2-per-gigabyte cost. Current scalable storage options range from $10 to $15 per gigabyte, according to HP.

"The 'extreme' here is extreme scalability, extreme affordability and extreme unified management," Eitenbichler said. "While different business have different needs they all have to scale and they want good performance."

The announcement also comes as the latest indication of HP's plans to shoulder its way into a leadership position in enterprise storage. Last month, the company announced it was expanding its Secure Advantage portfolio to include a focus on storage infrastructure, adding goodies from encryption to data-auditing tools and even a free online storage assessment service.

The ExDS9100 marks an especially aggressive move for the company. As Peters described it, the ExDS9100's design makes it ripe for scale-out environments such as cloud computing. According to HP, no other file-based NAS can scale at the multi-petabyte level.

Enterprises also can provision performance and capacity independently, which HP said gives administrators flexibility in matching capabilities to specific workloads.

The traditional approach to building a petabyte storage environment is to cobble together "white-box" solutions. As the ExDS9100 is a single appliance, HP said it reduces hardware requirements and related power and cooling costs.

Enterprises tied to social networking, video streaming, medical imagery requirements and research in energy exploration and genomic discovery are just a few that need hefty storage capacity, Eitenbichler said.

The product, which will be available in the fourth quarter of 2008, features a HP BladeSystem chassis with four blade servers that can deliver up to 200MB per second of performance and is scalable to 16 blades.

It uses HP file clustering software and applications run directly on the server block, eliminating the need for a software tier.