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Storage wars: Enterprise edition

Storage wars: Enterprise edition 

Faced with many different storage models available on the market, many IT managers are opting for the cloud system, which has been growing in popularity.

HP has been arduously researching the storage needs of businesses around the world, and has developed a number of new products in response to this. Among them is the HP StoreVirtual Virtual Storage Appliance (VSA), which is optimized for the software-defined data centre.

In an exclusive interview with IT in Canada, Rob Strechay, director of software-defined-storage for HP goes in-depth about how the company is responding to the demand for better storage.

IT in Canada: The storage needs of the software-defined data centre are constantly evolving. How has HP responded to this?
Rob Strechay:
We continue to innovate within the software-defined (space) and bring new features across the various different platforms, such as OpenStack, VMware and Microsoft. We really look at the fact that most customers are not going to have just one hypervisor; many will have more than one, and we want to be there to help them with robust storage service for all those platforms.

ITIC: Why are more businesses adopting software-defined models for their data storage needs?
RS: I think a lot of our customers are adopting these models because they want to lower the cost for getting into storage. Storage is growing at an exponential rate, and not all applications have requirements for high SLAs. A lot of customers are turning to the software-defined data centre and software-defined storage to lower the initial costs and the costs over time as well.

ITIC: How can businesses benefit from implementing HP’s new StoreVirtual VSAs?
StoreVirtual can definitely help them. They can start as small as three VSAs on three different servers and grow without the need for buying an array. They can just leverage the storage that is stranded inside of those servers, and from a disaster recovery perspective, they can then have that data protected within that database. As well, they can also do stretch clusters out to other data centres, depending on the size of the customer. We allow them an affordable way to leverage the server storage they already have, and gain confidence in a software-only product.

ITIC: How have HP’s products helped businesses to reduce costs?
We’ve seen a lot of our customers reduce their costs by not having to buy incremental hardware or delaying those purchases. This way, it fits better into their IT budgeting patterns. We have some service providers who have used our software because you can turn it up within minutes. You can respond to increasing needs as well, so there is no lag time between when a service-born application is needed and when you can actually deploy and utilize the highly resilient software-based storage.

ITIC: IT managers are always looking for storage solutions that are user-friendly and easy to implement. Would you say HP’s storage products provide IT managers with this level of convenience?
RS: Yes. What we’ve heard from our customers is that ease of use is primary to them. That’s why with this and previous announcements, we work extremely hard to build simplicity into the management systems that they already know and own. We reduce the costs of managing it by bringing it to VMware’s vCenter and Microsoft’s system centre operations and virtualization managers. That way, they’re already familiar with those products, and we bring it into those models in a familiar way, lowering the learning curve for getting into our software-defined storage.

ITIC: It has been said that cloud-based storage is the way of the future. To what extent do you agree or disagree?
RS: I think for certain applications, it absolutely is a fit and will continue to grow. That’s part of the reason why we allow our service provider partners to use our software-defined storage as the underpinnings of their cloud service offerings. However, we have many customers who will not move applications to cloud-based storage because the SLAs they require are just too high, and it doesn’t make sense to move to a cloud-based application. I think that over time, there will be many more applications that will be written in a way that can utilize cloud storage, but today, those that are SLA-driven still need an on-premise solution.

ITIC: How has HP responded to the growth in popularity of cloud-based storage?
RS: We have entire cloud division, and they actually offer a public cloud offering, the Helion Public Cloud. We believe that for certain applications and applications provided as SaaS offerings are great. HP is making a big bet on cloud, and we continue to see that as we evolve our products, we always have an eye to the cloud and how customers are going to consume it down the road.

ITIC: Many businesses are looking for ways to increase connectivity and enhance file sharing and backup. What has HP done in response to this?
RS: Our StoreOnce 4 TB virtual storage appliance really fits the bill there. You could have that in the cloud or at multiple sites, and it uses low bandwidth replication. For instance, if you are an oil exploration and production-type company with a remote oilfield, and you only had low-latency Internet pipes between there, you can actually use this across there, doing backups locally and only sending the deltas across. This ensures that the data is protected, and you can also bring in and recover it at another site, utilizing the file-sharing capabilities underneath the hood of the StoreOnce appliance and our patented Catalyst technology.

ITIC: Mobile access is a key component of many new storage platforms. Are HP’s products optimized for mobile access?
RS: Yes. Part of what we’re doing is building rich interfaces using HTML5. We do focus a lot on the tablet market and utilization across it. We also work with our neighbours in the HP Converged Systems business unit that builds HP OneView, and they’re focused on that single plane of IT glass, which has also been optimized for the tablet-type market.

ITIC: Has HP developed an app for mobile access?
RS: We do have one for the HP 3PAR StoreServ platform. It has mobile access and a secure server that can be downloaded by our customers for free, and it works on both Android and iOS.

ITIC: What does the future hold for the software-defined data centre?
RS: I think that it’s going to be more of the same, but faster. What we’re going to see is the convergence of our VSA technology as we bring data protection and primary from a storage perspective. I think we have proven to be the leader in software-defined storage for the software-defined data centre since 2011. One of the wonderful things about HP is that we’re not just the storage company, so being able to leverage the assets in our HP Helion cloud and working with the Helion OpenStack (team) gives us an advantage over others. We eat our own dog food; we get (information) not only from our customers, but also from our internal customers. What we’re seeing from them is that we really need to break down the walls between what is classic enterprise storage, and what is software-defined, and how you make those meld together. The locality of data will become very important, and that’s a place HP will be going with our software-defined products. People want to be able to have the data where those applications need it at the time they need it, and that’s a focus for us, going forward.

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