HP is on a roll. It's gone past $100 billion of annual revenue, an amazing sum, and sells more PCs than Dell. Mark Hurd's HP is busy eradicating the Fiorina malaise that hobbled the company. In the storage arena there have been a few management changes to sharpen up marketing and new products are coming. The Q4 storage results were good. It seems to be all coming together.

Staff matters

Relative new hire Dave Roberson, SVP and GM of HP's enterprise storage business, has not made much public impression but he has had a significant impact. For example, he has helped re-energise HP's tape business.

There is a new storage marketing VP, Stefan Schmidt, who moved into storage from HP's IPG, the printer business. Possibly we might see some HP printer-like marketing strategies and messages.

Duncan Campbell, who used to be the marketing VP for storage, has moved on and is involved with messages in the server and storage area.

Attitude

A general attitude seems to be that HP can make good products for its customers by making better use of its assets, by combining them into new products that do storage work better than products from competitors. Andrew Manners, HP's StorageWorks division manager for the UK, said HP is: "starting to group more assets to make a differentiated offering to meet a customer need."

There is also an attitude in HP that shares aspects with Sun. Manners asked, rhetorically, where does a server stop and network-attached storage (NAS) storage start? That is in tune with Sun's idea of server-enhanced storage products such as the X4500 'super-NAS- Thumper box. Is it storage with souped up servers or servers with souped up storage? The boundary is blurred. Inside HP should NAS simply be a form of ProLiant, a server variant?

MSO

One example of this new product boundary blurring idea is the coming MSO product, where MSO stands for Massive Scale Out, not Microsoft Service Organisation. It's due in the April-May period and is a new product built from existing HP components. The aim is to provide storage for oganisations experiencing exponential growth in storage needs, what Manners describes as being "for people with large to very large storage needs," ones scaling out to petabytes of storage. He mentions organisations like the BBC which is digitising its film assets, MSN, Google and the Sangar Institute with its genome database. These

They need a storage product that can scale capacity quickly, up to very high levels with balanced storage capacity, I/O performance and processing power.

MSO is a file-oriented storage product and will consist of ProLiant controllers using the C-class architecture, serial-attached SCSI (SAS) drive blades, PolyServe enterprise NAS virtualisation, and HP tech computing's SFS (Scalable File Share) offering, including the Lustre file system.

HP describes SFS thus: a powerful file server that gives users of Linux clusters scalable storage that is easy to use and easy to administer. The HP StorageWorks SFS20 disk arrays, consisting of a large number of low-cost, off-the-shelf RAID arrays, deliver exceptional price/performance. HP SFS shares bandwidth by distributing files in parallel across Linux clusters of industry-standard server and storage components.

HP SFS scales by adding data "smart cells" to increase the bandwidth and capacity. Metadata smart cells manage file creation, deletion, opens, closes, directory searches, and other metadata operations. File system data is striped across smart cells for high bandwidth performance; smart cell pairs are cross-connected for resilient uninterrupted access.

This is a grid-like computing idea, using Lustre Linux clustering technology. The actual interconnect wasn't revealed but a good supposition is that gigabit Ethernet will be used. A market target for MSO includes customers like SnapFish, which is a photo service. Manners said: "It's deploying four EVAs a week. MSO would be a fifth to a tenth of the price."

We're envisaging this is HP's take on the general evolving Web 2.0, cloud computing idea, the one that IBM's XIV purchase seems to be geared for, and the one that Sun's red-shift' analogy describes. EMC has its coming Hulk and Maui products positioned for this merging market too.