HP to resell Emulex HBAs with its blades

HP wilto integrate Emulex's HBA management tools into its Systems Insight Manager

Hewlett-Packard Co. is reselling Fibre Channel host bus adapters (HBAs) from storage networking company Emulex Corp. across its entire family of blade servers, the two companies announced Monday. As users adopt the smaller form factor servers, they are increasingly interested in attaching their blades to SANs (storage area networks), according to both firms.

Emulex already has a similar HBA agreement in place with IBM Corp. for its eServer BladeCenter servers. Given that today's blade market is largely a two-horse race between Big Blue and HP, with Monday's deal under its belt Emulex is well positioned with a foot in both camps.

The deal with HP is a non-exclusive OEM (original equipment manufacturer) agreement. HP already resells HBAs from Emulex's rival QLogic Corp. with its blades, according to Steve Gillaspy, group manager for HP BladeSystem product marketing. "There's a very strong customer demand for the Emulex Fibre Channel HBA across our blades," he said.

The Emulex-based Fibre Channel HBA for HP BladeSystem, which uses a version of the storage company's sixth-generation 2-gigabit-per-second Thor input/output controller, is available now and can be used either with Linux or Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating systems, according to Mike Smith, executive vice president of worldwide marketing for Emulex.

Monday's arrangement builds on an eight-year relationship between HP and Emulex, according to both executives. "We have a tremendous installed base [with HP's servers]," said Emulex's Smith. "We [already] have more than 400,000 Emulex HBAs in HP SANs." HP's Gillaspy agreed. "HP sales of HBAs are very strongly weighted to Emulex," he said.

Both Smith and Gillaspy see much opportunity in the blade market where they estimate the number of servers tied to SANs at around 50 percent, much higher than the rate of SAN attachment for general-purpose servers.

As part of Monday's deal, HP will fully integrate Emulex's HBAnywhere HBA management tools suite into its Systems Insight Manager (SIM) software, Smith said. HP first rolled out SIM in 2003, but in February the company announced the systems management software would combine both server and storage management. More efficiently managing systems is where blade users will likely realize true cost savings, according to Gillaspy.

So far, HP customers aren't talking about interoperability between different vendors' blades, but about the company making sure the small form factor servers "work seamlessly in the data center," Gillaspy said. Having the Emulex HBA product "rounds out HP's portfolio," with the company already offering Fibre Channel switches from Brocade Communications Systems Inc. and McData Corp. along with an Ethernet switch from Cisco Systems Inc., he added.

As the blade market grows, Emulex will investigate signing OEM deals with other blade players, according to Smith. "We're certainly looking to be as aggressive as we can be in penetrating the blade systems market," he said. One possibility is Dell Inc. where it would be a matter of extending an additional reseller agreement to cover blades. However, Smith said Emulex had nothing to announce yet on the Dell front.

Last month, Emulex signed its first ever OEM deal with Sun Microsystems Inc. for its HBAs, a move also driven by user pressure.

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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