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Cloud Wars: The 3PAR Strikes Back

HP's 3PAR takeover aims to strike the VCE jugular

A long time ago (November 2009 to be precise), in a Cloud far far away, the Rebel Alliance of EMC, Cisco and VMware joined forces to form what are now dubbed Acadia and the VCE coalition. Soon after came the launches of VBlocks 0, 1 and 2 each respectively incorporating the EMC Celerra, Clariion or VMax with a stack of Cisco blades and switches and a layer of VMware virtualization to suit.

Marketed as ‘best of breed’ and ‘ready configured to client specifications’ it was an immediate launch pad for any customer looking to deploy a private cloud with a single pane of management.

Whether it was an already mature virtualization infrastructure looking to quickly expand or an organization wanting to enter the virtualization stratosphere with minimum fuss, in house training etc. the VBlock was quickly carving itself a significant market share. Hence no surprise that EMC’s VP of Global Marketing and CTO Chuck Hollis can hardly hide his glee in interviews at the current lack of direct competition to the VCE’s destiny to rule the Cloud’s Galactic Empire. But one should never underestimate the power of the HP side, now counterstriking in their salaciously exciting sweeping aside of Dell and consequent takeover of the brilliant storage platforms of 3PAR. The Cloud Wars begun they have.

At $33 a share, 3Par now belong to HP. So despite being the household name that they are and arguably the world’s biggest technology company in sales terms, HP will only now be entering the storage market with a product worthy of their clout.

HP EVA administrators may beg to differ but any end user who’s had to go through the nightmare of doing a firmware upgrade on a HP EVA will certainly join me in the chorus of disapproval at the very mention of ‘Enterprise’ within the EVA name. A good modular storage system – yes, enterprise – certainly not and hence why HP have had an OEM deal with HDS to rebrand their USPV and USPVM range as XP24000 and XP12000 respectively albeit with some microcode changes. It was a nice arrangement but surely all of this will now change with the acquisition of 3PAR.

3PAR is one of those classic examples of a company with pioneering developments and products but an inability to turn in a profit. 3PAR have arguably led the way with their developments with their Utility Storage range; architectures that provide a multi-tenant platform on which service providers can deliver both virtualized and scalable enterprise IT as a utility service, in other words Software as a Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) models.

Then there’s their InServ storage server range, which constitutes models such as the T400 and T800 which directly compete with other Enterprise arrays such as the EMC VMax and the HDS USPV, or should I say the HP XP24000. With an operating system software suite named InForm they have a management pane that scales across both their high end T-class and modular F-class range i.e. the F200 and F400. A much better transition model than the MSA, EVA to XP range currently being offered by HP.

Another pioneering achievement for 3PAR was their revolutionary thin provisioning, a mechanism now adopted by practically every storage vendor on the market. Therein though emerged the ironic twist of fate as the very technology which gave them a major edge over their competitors was the same one that companies such as EMC and HDS adopted, marketed and created the allusion of being their very own. So now with the increased sales channels which come from being under the HP umbrella, the 3PAR range can finally penetrate a customer base worthy of its quality product and showcase its technology firsthand.

Another issue is that the new technology that will come with 3PAR will also enable HP to offer something far greater and beneficial for their existent client base than their current storage offerings. I personally now fear greatly for the future of HDS having already suffered the blow of the end of the OEM agreement with SUN and now what inevitably will be the end of their relationship with HP. It makes no business sense for HP to continue with HDS and their XP range for several reasons. While as great as the USPV is, nothing has happened or changed for several years while HP’s competitors such as IBM, NetApp and EMC continue to develop and enhance their storage system range. Due to this HP’s high end range has also stagnated and in a market where customers are being told of the wonders of a VMax and VPlex, it’s a hard sale to keep plugging a product such as the XP/USPV which hasn’t changed for more than four years. Step in the 3PAR R&D team and you have gurus who are adapting and changing with the times bringing some of the latest and greatest developments in storage – are HP really going to wait around for the USPV2 while EMC corner the market left, right and centre?

It’s the new developments that will also give HP an added edge in the market and bring the 3PAR technology at the forefont while also allowing HP to bring a direct competitive model to the VBlock. Just recently 3PAR announced their latest integration of their InServ with VMware’s vSphere 4 to quickly build cloud infrastructures for their shared, virtualized utility service offerings. 3PAR have also made no secret of their Utility Storage range being specifically designed for virtual datacenters and the delivery of IT as a service. With the addition of their Adaptive Optimization, their Autonomic Storage Tiering application and tight integration with VMware’s vStorage, 3PAR are already a storage company looking at embracing the Cloud phenomenon. 3Par's virtual storage solutions will not only position HP as a one-stop storage solution, but also carries the massive potential of an integrated HP blade / VMware virtualization / 3PAR Storage Cloud platform that directly targets the VCE coalition’s VBlock.

So while it may be considered by some that HP’s takeover of 3PAR is a satisfactory result for EMC, with no 3PAR product threatening their Dell deals, I would strongly beg to differ. The HP 3PAR takeover is a statement of intent. No need for HDS and the XP range. No more playing second fiddle in the storage market to EMC. No more allowing VPLEX to run free reign when they now have a virtualized and autonomically managed cloud storage system. And no more allowing the VBlock to corner the Cloud market. Arise HP, the Force is strong with you.

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