HP turns to Linux for enterprise NAS

New device will have larger storage capacity than HP's current line of NAS products

Hewlett Packard is readying a new enterprise-quality NAS (network attached storage) device that will be based on the Linux operating system and managed using the company's StorageWorks Grid architecture, according to an HP executive.

The product's launch will be part of series of storage announcements on May 16 at the HP Americas StorageWorks Conference 2005 in Las Vegas, said Bob Schultz, senior vice president and general manager of HP's StorageWorks division. At that time, HP also plans to announce a refresh of its Enterprise Virtual Array product line and to provide more details on how it plans to further roll its StorageWorks Grid software architecture into the company's product portfolio, he said.

The new StorageWorks NAS server will be based on HP's ProLiant server design and will have a larger storage capacity than its current line of NAS products, Schultz said.

HP has already had success selling NAS devices for small and medium-sized businesses with its ProLiant Storage Servers, which are based on the Windows Storage Server 2003 operating system. For Unix-centric enterprise users, however, Linux was required. "When you move into some of the enterprise customers, they run Unix and they want to have that consistency," he said.

By turning to Linux, which is not currently used in HP's NAS products, HP will get stronger support for the Network File System file-sharing protocol that is used by Unix servers, said Nancy Hurley a senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group.

However, the most interesting component of the new server will be its grid design. With the StorageWorks Grid software, HP's NAS servers will be able to use the ProLiant's computing power to actually manage each other, much like a peer-to-peer network, she said.

"They take the standard ProLiant servers, in this case running Linux, and create a grid of NAS cells that you could just continue to add capacity to," Hurley said. "The nice thing about this grid-based architecture is that when you add capacity, you also end up adding performance because it's a ProLiant CPU in there."

This architecture is already used in two of HP's products, the StorageWorks Reference Information Storage System and the StorageWorks Scalable File Share, according to Hurley.

HP is not the only company eyeing the NAS space of late. On Wednesday IBM Corp. announced plans to begin reselling storage systems based on products from NAS market leader Network Appliance, and earlier this week Hitachi Data Systems began a rollout of its first NAS products with the launch of a new TagmaStore storage blade.

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