HP brings sanity to storage

New disk storage arrays will make it easier for administrators to assign and adjust storage to various departments or functions

Hewlett-Packard is developing new storage hardware that will make it easier for administrators to assign the right amount of storage to different departments in an organization.

HP on Monday announced plans for new models in its midrange EVA series of disk storage arrays at the HP Technology Forum in Las Vegas. The EVA 4100, 6100, and 8100, due later this year, feature what HP calls Dynamic Capacity Management.

Typically, when a company buys new storage capacity, it apportions it to different programs or different business functions in the organization. It can lead to the false impression that the company has used up all its storage capacity. Dynamic Capacity Management (DCM), HP said, allows the storage manager of a company to assign capacity to various departments or functions as needed and allows the system to reduce capacity assigned to departments if they're not using it up at the rate they thought they would.

This saves companies the cost of buying more storage capacity they may not need, said Mark Gonzalez, vice president of enterprise server and storage sales at HP.

"Perhaps you don't have to buy as much storage as you had to before and because of that, you use less power, use less cooling and can delay your purchases," Gonzalez said. "What's the most expensive storage that you'll buy? The storage that you have to buy today."

Gonzalez said the EVAs may carry a list price somewhere in the range of $35,000 to $40,000.

HP offers DCM, what it also calls thin provisioning, in the high-end XP line of disk storage arrays it introduced in May. The availability of it on the EVA line will coincide with the launch of Microsoft's new Windows Server 2008 operating system, which is due out later this year.

Besides assigning storage capacity more in line with actual use, the EVAs will utilize a Windows feature that can reduce the size of storage capacity already assigned and reassign it to another purpose.

But storage provisioning is as much a problem of office politics as it is technology, said Andrew Reichman, a storage industry analyst with Forrester Research Inc.

Software application administrators at companies ask for as much storage as they can get because it's difficult to add more space later. But storage administrators want to preserve storage capacity so they don't have to buy more storage capacity unnecessarily. In the back and forth of office politics, Reichman said, the software administrators tend to win these battles.

But with DCM, which he thinks is more accurately called "adaptive provisioning," assigning and adjusting capacity is easier and better assures applications will get the storage they need but not more than they need, he said.

"Adaptive provisioning is good for environments where you have good communications. Where the server admins and the applications admins say 'I agree to take less and will trust you to grow it for me as time goes so we use less resources,'" Reichman said. "In my experience those environments are few and far between."

HP also announced it's introducing a new tape drive for data storage and its first tape storage device in a blade form factor.

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