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HP slashes price for disk-based archiving

Severely reduced pricing, plus a bevy of new features, demonstrates that Hewlett-Packard is still planning to fight for its piece of the disk-based archiving pie.

Almost a year after unveiling its Reference Information Storage System (RISS), Hewlett-Packard Co. announced today enhancements to the product, reduced pricing, an API program, as well as numerous partners and customers.

The announcement seems to reaffirm HP's commitment to the disk-based archiving market, dominated by EMC Corp.'s Centera and SnapLock from Network Appliance Inc.

But the competition does not yet have a stranglehold on the market, according to Dianne McAdam, senior analyst and partner with Data Mobility Group. RISS has plenty to offer, particularly to midsized companies that "may not be regulated and that are thinking 'Gee, we might be getting sued.'" With RISS 1.1, "HP is by no means too late to the party," she said.

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On the hardware front, RISS 1.1 "smart cells" -- the building blocks that provide RISS' processing and capacity resources -- have more than doubled in size from 400 GB to 850 GB of useable (mirrored) capacity. That capacity boost comes by way of larger disk drives for one, said Paul O'Brien, HP's director of ILM. But in order for the increased capacity not to be a drain on the smart cells' performance, HP has also enhanced the platform's index compression capabilities. "What constrains the size of a smart cell is its ability to manage the objects," he explained.

At the same time, HP has reduced RISS' price tag. RISS 1.1 now starts at $112,500 for a 1.7 TB system, compared to $125,000 for the older 1 TB model. That represents a savings of 47% on a dollar-per-GB basis. Capacity upgrades can be purchased in 850 GB increments for $52,000.

Unlike EMC Centera and NetApp SnapLock, RISS also includes an integrated e-mail archiving application, Reference Information Manager for Messaging, or RIM, which now supports Lotus Domino as well as Microsoft Exchange environments.

For other archiving applications, HP is providing independent software vendors access to a new API and software development kit. Thus far, members of its new ILM partner program include Akonix Systems Inc., iLumin Software Services Inc., IMlogic Inc., Intermine Inc., KOM Networks Inc., OpenText Corp., OuterBay Technologies Inc., Princeton Softech Inc. and Vignette Corp., among others. O'Brien said that more applications, especially in the area of medical imaging, are forthcoming, as is an NFS/CIFS interface.

Princeton Softech, which makes a database archiving tool called Active Archive, claims HP's timing is good. According to Jim Lee, vice president of product management, many companies have just completed the first step toward compliance -- setting up an e-mail archive -- and are beginning to realize that they also need to archive structured data. By integrating with the search and retrieval functionality exposed by the RISS API, Lee said Active Archive users that store data on RISS will be able to do a unified search across both e-mail and structured data.

Speed and ease of use

Indeed, RISS' search capabilities seem to be one of its major selling points. Richard Hall, IT manager at CODA, a U.K.-based independent software vendor that recently bought a 2 TB RISS system to store internal e-mails for the firm's 540 employees, describes RISS' search speed as "phenomenally quick." And while the amount of e-mail CODA generates is relatively modest -- about 6 million per year -- Hall anticipates that over time, CODA will store additional content types to RISS such as Web pages, Sharepoint documents and database records. "The last thing you want is to do a search on a document and wait around for a half an hour for the result."

Compared to the competition -- CODA also looked at e-mail archiving software from KVS, now owned by Veritas Software Inc., with storage from EMC and Network Appliance -- Hall also liked RISS' "black box" nature. "The service, the solution and the support are all from HP -- there's no worrying about 'What if this piece goes down, what if that piece goes down?'" And while at first glance, RISS' price may seem high, if you look at the management, "the overall cost is going to be lower than for a system that was bolted together."

EMC recently announced an OEM deal with Fast Search and Transfer (Fast) to add indexing capabilities to Centera. It said the technology will enable more precise search and retrieval of data stored on Centera, and speed up the time it takes to retrieve content, even as the archive gets larger and more users access the data.

First steps toward ILM

In a related announcement, HP announced File System Extender Version 3.1, a policy-based data movement application that moves files between classes of storage. A cornerstone of HP's future ILM strategy, FSE is currently available for Windows and Linux environments, and traditional HP storage arrays such as the EVA and MSA families. This summer HP will add RISS as another target storage platform for FSE, and will also add HP-UX to its list of supported operating systems.

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