HP has added iSCSI support to its EVA mid-range arrays. It has also added 4Gbit/s Fibre Channel support thus enabling end-to-end 4GBit/s SANs for its customers with suitable switches.

Bob Schultz, SVP for HP's StorageWorks division, claimed that HP's system-wide credentials would give it an advantage: "HP is helping customers move into a new era of information-centric consolidation in a way that tactical, storage-only vendors simply cannot match," he said. However, he did not go on to say in what way this would help HP beat off the competition.

The company has announced a range of new products:-

- Concurrent Fibre Channel (FC) and iSCSI connectivity for EVA arrays.
- Linking of EVA and higher-end XP arrays with storage across them being virtualised and also management. HP's storage management facility can also manage third-party arrays.
- Doubled cache size in XP arrays to improve cache partitioning
- The use of 500GB drives in the StorageWorks 6000 Virtual Library System, taking capacity up to 70TB.
- The StorageWorks MSL2024 tape tape library with 9.6TB LTO3 capacity in a 2U form factor.
- Adding software features to its Enterprise File Services (EFS) WAN Accelerators plus multiple fail-through network interface card options.
- Upgrading Storage Essentials Backup Manager to extend backup reporting capabilities to HP-UX and Linux.
- Adding new provisioning capabilities to Storage Essentials Provisioning Manager for disk arrays and switches from IBM, Sun, Xiotech, Cisco and QLogic.

HP reckons some 70 percent of enterprise servers are not connected to SANs at present. ISCSI provides a way for them to connect in. The additional data consolidated in the SAN would then need both EVA and XP arrays being used together. Customers may also want to bring in third-party arrays, from suppliers Schultz categorises as 'tactical, storage-only vendors' for example, and this is the background to the addition of multi-vendor management and virtualisation offerings.

The linking of EVA and XP arrays means that the XP virtualisation facility, actually Hitachi Data Systems' USP TagmaStore, can now virtualise EVA arrays as well as other, third-party, arrays.

This implies that HP does not see the SAN fabric as the best place to locate storage virtualisation, the preferred location of IBM, Brocade Cisco and McData. Instead, like HDS and Sun, it thinks the optimum location is a storage controller located between the SAN fabric and the drive arrays.

An HP spokesperson said: "HP continues to monitor the maturity of Storage Virtualisation at both the SAN Fabric and Storage Virtualisation levels. HP believes that both solutions have their merits and that today EVA and XP customers should be able to take full advantage of the technology that is available in the arrays, without having the need to make a choice on which virtualisation strategy to use."