In a series of products and upgrades to be announced today, HP will roll out higher capacity virtualised storage arrays with new features such as virtual RAID 6 and a solid-state drive option.

The company is also introducing storage virtualisation software that works with more third-party devices, and an improved backup platform. The rollout is part of a broader set of steps on Tuesday to help customers cut costs during the recession and prepare for competitiveness in the future.

Though enterprises may have fewer resources to work with in hard times, their need for storage capacity is expected to continue growing. HP says it can help them make better use of their IT resources through management software that takes less work, as well as virtualisation technology that can increase the utilisation of existing storage capacity.

With virtualisation and easy-to-use management software built in, the new StorageWorks Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA) products can cut storage administrative costs by half compared with traditional arrays from competitors such as EMC and NetApp, Fitze said.

On the hardware side, HP is introducing the Enterprise Virtual Array 6400 and 8400 platforms. Replacing the EVA6100 and EVA8100 units, the new arrays can accommodate more storage - as many as 320 drives - and larger caches, as big as 20GB on the EVA 8400.

One added option on the new EVA units is the option of adding solid-state drives (SSDs) for fast access to key information stores such as database logs, said Kyle Fitze, director of marketing for HP's storage platforms division. Customers will be able to integrate multiple SSDs as large as 72GB, he said.

HP is also introducing VRAID 6, a virtual implementation of the RAID 6 standard, which sets up dual parity for every logical volume on an array. RAID 6 lets the array keep working with no lost data even if two disks fail, Fitze said.

The company's SAN Virtualisation Services Platform (SVSP) software allows enterprises to virtualise storage across multiple arrays, including platforms from other vendors. The software lets them combine many arrays into one virtual pool and move data across those arrays as needed.

SVSP 2.1, being introduced on Tuesday, extends support for third-party platforms to several more products from IBM, EMC, Sun and SGI, as well as to NetApp's FAS6000 series and other platforms, and 3Par's InServ T400, T800 and E200. It also adds support for HP's own new EVA gear and MSA 2300.

Compared with a traditional array environment, an enterprise can manage three times as much storage capacity per administrator with SVSP 2.1, according to HP. The system allows for greater efficiency, too, with capacity utilisation of 70 percent or more in a virtual pool, the company said.

Also on Tuesday, HP is updating its Data Protector Software. Through a virtual backup feature, the new software can reduce the space needed for a backup by as much as 95 percent, according to HP. In addition, the updated product now provides eight different methods for automating protection of VMware environments and makes it easier to use all those methods, the company said.

Storage virtualisation can help enterprises realise the efficiency they seek from server virtualisation, said Gartner analyst David Russell.

"The server virtualisation activity is something of a juggernaut," with a majority of enterprises probably having done some of this, Russell said. But fewer have consolidated their storage capacity into a pool and virtualised it, he said. Some have used storage virtualisation on a few arrays but not across the board.

To get the full flexibility promised by virtualisation, it helps to implement both technologies from end to end, something that few vendors - chiefly HP and IBM - can do, Russell said.

"These domains aren't so discrete anymore," Russell said. "If you're going to make a major initiative in this area, then to make those benefits, you have to think it through end to end."

The EVA6400 and EVA8400 are available now, with US list prices starting at $24,240 (£17,400) and $61,456, respectively. SVSP 2.1 is also available now, with a US list price of $37,180.