With today's purchase of LeftHand Networks, HP is putting storage virtualization squarely in the midrange space, acknowledging what startups like LeftHand and DataCore have been doing for some time. Bringing (according to HP) some 3000 LeftHand customers to the HP table, the purchase highlights a credible storage virtualization solution for those, either not willing to bed with a single storage vendor (assuming HP doesn't alter the LeftHand support matrix), or who are dealing with a hodge-podge of already existing commodity storage. Capturing 3000 more customers is certainly a nice starting point for HP, but I suspect that many of those customers already use HP hardware, and thus HP will only net out the revenue from the LeftHand software, support contracts, and partner margins. Still not bad considering that with HP’s marketing prowess, the customer base will likely grow – I’m sure HP thinks so.
Some may compare this to Dell's purchase of EqualLogic, but I think, while there are similarities, in Dell's case, they were filling a gaping void in their product offerings. In HP's case, they have bolstered an already existing product line with some new mid-range targeted virtualization muscle. In addition, based on the price tag, HP may have gotten a better deal. No doubt, the current economic woes put a lid on the final price for LeftHand. $360 million cash on the barrelhead is not chump change but nothing like the $1.4 billion dished out by Dell for EqualLogic. Still, Dell got hardware plus software, while HP is getting primarily software.
This is the big question, how will HP integrate and position their offerings in the market? One has to wonder about the overlap with the existing HP Storageworks EVA product line. It is often baffling when a large company purchases a smaller one. How will they integrate their new acquisition into the fold? For some purchases like these, the acquired becomes the expired – never heard from again. IBM recently addressed this issue with their grandiose storage announcements earlier in the month. By IBM reintroducing their stable of recently purchased companies, previously independent Arsenal Data, Diligent and XIV all got top billing with an explanation of how they fit into the grand scheme of IBM offerings – or at least an attempt at it.
I can definitely see LeftHand's solution wedging into the middle of the HP MSA offering, but the edges are fuzzy around the upper end EVA disk arrays. When does a LeftHand solution built on a ProLiant server and MSA disk arrays intersect an EVA array? No matter what your opinion of the EVA product line is, taking several MSA2000’s, combining them with a LeftHand solution, and quickly you’ve got a facsimile of the EVA 6100. Ok, it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles or as compact a design, but if you live in the iSCSI SMB to small enterprise world, it’s plenty good enough and highly scalable. In many cases, when looking at the “Storage Software” offerings from HP, LeftHand will drop in nicely – rounding out the offering for disaster recovery, archive, and infrastructure.
But, oh, please HP, integrate the management consoles together with your existing stuff. If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a million times – STORAGE IS TOO HARD TO MANAGE! Too many consoles, too little heterogeneous integration. The storage management landscape is a mess, please don’t add to the litter. At least seamlessly integrate the LeftHand management consoles into your existing storage management software – or visa versa.
One side note, I suppose in an offhand (or should I say lefthand) way, once again iSCSI gains credibility through the support offered by the LeftHand software solution.
Posted by Gene Ruth