It was a relatively low key set of announcements that HP made at its Technology Forum in Las Vegas. There was an awful lot of setting the announcements into the context of business technology optimisation and helping customers produce 'positive business outcomes', meaning accelerated business growth, lower cost and/or mitigated risk. Why is risk always 'mitigated' by the way? It's never lowered or reduced but mitigated. We don't hear about costs being mitigated...

Here is an overview of the announcements with speeds and feeds information added to the new EVA products.

Disk refreshment

HP has refreshed its EVA disk drive array line and introduced three new models: 4100; 6100; and 8100 which replace the existing 4000, 6000 and 8000 products. The basic specifications remain unchanged: two controllers, to 56 drives and 28TB capacity for the 4100 - exactly the same as for the 4000. The equivalent specs for the 6100 and 8100 are the same as for the 6000 and 8000; to 112 drives and 56TB capacity for the 6x00 and to 240 drives and 120TB for the 8x00.

There has been no introduction of 750GB or 1,000GB drives, the most capacious ones staying at the 500GB level in HP's FATA (Fibre Attached Technology Adapted) format. What has changed is the speed of the arrays, although controller numbers and cache sizes have not altered. There is an up to 24 percent performance improvement and the drives have the adaptive provisioning feature called Dynamic Capacity Management with rapid and easy logical unit number (LUN) growth and shrinkage.

It seems paradoxical that, with HP quoting IDC predictions of a sixfold increase in data needing to be stored over the next few years, there has been no EVA capacity increase. It must surely be likely that a 750GB FATA drive is due. There are no serial ATA (SATA) drives available for the EVA arrays by the way.

Tape refreshment

Finally HP has announced its LTO 4 format, weeks behind Dell and behind IBM as well. As expected the HP drive is exactly the same as the others with 800GB raw capacity, drive-level encryption. HP is offering encryption key management. There are drive, autoloader and library options.

The LTO product is for enterprises. At the same time HP introduced a drive and format with a tenth of the raw data capacity at 80GB, the long-awaited DAT 160 format, with SCSI or USB attachment. Again there are no surprises here, the capacity and the I/O speed being as expected, both twice that of the current DAT 72 format. The surprise is that HP introduced the DAT 160 format at all, sources elsewhere in the industry having predicted that it was dead.

HP's Harry Baeverstat, SMB business director for StorageWorks, asserts that tape is not dead, disk-based backup is not crushing SMB tape sales, and that SMBs understand the best data protection is disk-to-disk-to-tape (D2D2T); data older than thirty days or so being archived off to tape.

It is intriguing that, having bemoaned the faster than expected decline in tape sales for the last three quarters, HP has responded by introducing two new tape formats. One might suppose it is being counter-intuitive. But the tape market is huge and, like a massive great spinning flywheel that's slowing down but will spin for years yet, won't quickly fall away.

No MAID tape-cannibalising technology for us

HP is not about to introduce a drive array with spun-down disks like Copan and Nexsan with their MAID (massive array of idle drives) technology. Rich Steffens, HP's VP and GM for SANs, said there is a large gap in the storage market that customers have mentioned to HP; it is in the storage space between slow, high-capacity disks and tape. Wouldn't it be nice if there was, for example, "a spun-down disk array" there between them.

Well, it might, only HP's market researchers haven't been able to come up with a convincing 'use-case' to justify developing a product, or, indeed, OEM'ing one from Copan. This may indicate the problems that Copan is having in getting top-line storage suppliers interested in OEM'ing its technology. It might also indicate that one of the last things HP would do, with its LTO and DAT tape format investments and business plans, would be to introduce a disk-based archive with a cost-per-GB very near tape and a data access speed well in advance of it.

Tape may well not be dying but some tape sales are in the coffin and HP is not in the business of hammering nails into tape's coffin lid. No sirree; we'll have that tape baby on life support for as long as possible.

No letting VMware have its storage provisioning API way

There has been discussion about VMware wanting to produce an API-level interface to enable its VMware Infrastructure to issue storage provisioning requests to storage disk resources when it sets up virtual servers. Like EqualLogic and 3PAR, HP agrees such discussions are taking place. Like 3PAR it says it can respond to VMware requests already but then goes further. HP's chief technologist, Ash Ashutosh, says that a perfectly good interface exists for a provisioning function already, SMI-S.

It is open and, if VMware wanted a standard way of doing this then, lo and behold, SMI-S is it. But, he suggests, VMware wants its own protocol because then it would own it and have control. HP is not talking to VMware about working with VMware to set up a new storage provisioning API just to benefit VMware and its drive to 'own' the virtual server market.

What else is new in HP's StorageWorks shop window?

HP has enhanced its Business Copy EVA software with, for example, host agent updates and single sign-on with Command View EVA. This latter product now supports the LUN shrink/grow capability and has simplified license management. Continuous Access EVA Software has better replication options. HP emphasised the green features of its products in terms of reduced power consumption but there was no new green tehnology announcement.

HP revved up StorageWorks products in this announcement. It didn't introduce any headline new technology apart from the LUN shrink/grow adaptive provisioning but it did speed up its EVA arrays and introduce two new tape formats as well as a series of detailed software announcements. Good, solid stuff.