"What we have today is a lot better than 12 months ago." So says Andrew Manners, HP's StorageWorks division manager for the UK. He's arrived in the UK after running HP's storage business in Australia and New Zealand. He talked to Techworld on June 30th about his views on the storage market and HP's competitors there.

On Sun
Sun and HP are roughly similar. Both for example supply high-end HDS TagmaStore drive arrays to their customers. But Manners says HP and Sun, although starting from a similar place, are diverging. "We (both) had no installed base of storage customers and changed manufacturers over the years." He thinks Sun "just did not care about storage."

"Sun doesn't sell HDS kit. It brings HDS people in to sell it. Its enterprise sales force wouldn't sell storage - only servers. We sell XP ourselves."

"Sun wasn't interested in the storage business. It's customers had fork lift upgrades with every storage transition they went through."

"IBM has the best attach rate for storage amongst its customers. HP is in a middle position but Sun is just a breeding ground for EMC. Sun's top ten customers in the city are EMC's top ten customers in the city. I hope Sun gets its storage right - it would put pressure on EMC."

Grid storage
We talked about grid storage and I asked if the smart cell idea was losing way?

"We're still standing behind the original version but what you see will evolve. RISS is a stand-out product. It's now 18 months since the Persist acquisition and we're really seeing traction happen. It's a mainstream product for us, fitting nicely into the ProLiant business."

Storage management
With all the recent happenings concerning Sun, Aperi and SMI-S I had to ask Andrew about storage management.

"AppIQ has made six or seven sales this quarter. That's double last quarter which was double the previous quarter."

"In Australia I helped set up the SNIA, alongside EMC and IBM. It was exciting, and wasn't something HP paid me to do. I don't believe in co-operative (product development) groups that don't have an industry-standard body owning the standardisation, such as Aperi."

(This interview took place three days after IBM issued the SNIA-supporting Aperi announcement referenced above which Manners may well have not seen. It's probable now that Manners might now not be so critical of Aperi for being ungoverned, as he might have said, by the SNIA.)

"AppIQ is 100 percent SMI-S capable and is a 2-year-old product. Contrast EMC with bolted-together items which is not SMI-S-compliant."

"Vendors in general have let users down with regard to their ability to manage their storage environment. There is asset management available but not information management. This is an area HP is investing in heavily. It's the biggest bugbear of our customers.""

In Manners' view the so-called anti-Aperi group of EMC, HP, Sun, Symantec and others 'won't produce a united product.'

On tape and disk-to-disk backup
I asked for Andrew's comments on tape. "We invented DAT, we invented DLT - Digital did (and Compaq bought DEC and HP bought Compaq), and we're involved with the invention of LTO. Tape has a distinct role and is likely to keep it; absolutely. Virtual tape goes between disk and tape to increase backup performance. It's almost a cache product."

Okay, but won't small and medium businesses (SMB) prefer the speed and simplicity of pure disk-to-disk backup?

"Our £300 USB-connect DAT 72 is good for this market. It's great for a notebook, with just a 10 minute session needed for incremental backup. The SMB market is not technically savvy. They have an absolute fear of technology. The USB DAT 72 is a good option for them."

Well yes, but connecting a USB external disk drive is no harder than connecting a USB tape and you can drag and drop files to it if you wish. Restore would also typically be faster than from a tape. I can't entirely agree with Andrew over this point.

Last words
Manners said HP's storage investments were continuing: "We've doubled the size of the storage business unit. We're hiring aggressively for people to sell storage management and ILM (Information lifecycle mannagement."

Concerning ILM and tiered storage he had a question about Pillar Data: "The idea of tiered storage on a platter; I couldn't grasp it. The beauty of tiered storage is different prices for different tiers. I couldn't understand how the middle of a disk is cheaper thsan the outside."

Andrew's last point was this: "HP sells infrastructure. Why should customers deal with boutique management, boutique this, boutique that? If customers can deal with an infrastructure supplier then it makes decisions a lot easier for the customer."