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HP boxes up storage, servers to help SMBs manage storage

HP packages blade servers and storage for shops lacking IT specialists to help simplify storage implementation and management.

Hewlett-Packard Co. is repackaging some of its server and storage offerings into bundles for small and medium-sized businesses (SMB). HP says these new bundles don't require any "IT specialists," such as storage administrators, to set up and manage them.

The HP Adaptive Infrastructure in a Box for Midsize Businesses bundle is aimed at companies with 100 to 999 employees. The bundle is based on the HP BladeSystem c3000 Enclosure, and includes HP's ProLiant BL260c two-processor server blade and either the HP StorageWorks All-in-One SB600c iSCSI and NAS storage blade on the low end, or, for larger companies, the StorageWorks 2000i MSA.

Starting price is $18,000 for a system designed for 300 users with ProLiant BL260c server blades for SMBs and the All-in-One storage blade.

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HP is repackaging its product so that they require less time to manage. "There's a pretty significant difference in the midsize customer's approach compared to larger companies," said Urs Renggli, director of SMB business for the HP Technology Solutions Group. "Most small and midsize companies have limited resources. They have a handful of IT people, mostly generalists."

Joe Leung, worldwide program manager for HP's ProLiant Business Advantage, said the goal of the bundling plan is to move HP customers off older servers and storage systems. "We look across verticals and realize there's a lowest common denominator of services that everybody needs," he said.

Will the lowest common denominator appeal to as many companies as HP believes? A couple of medium-sized HP customers think so, if the new package can indeed simplify implementation and management.

Henry Chace, CIO of law firm Burns & Levinson, said that his firm has about 4 TB of storage for 260 employees in three offices on HP MSA20 and NetApp SANs, and direct attached storage on HP DL360 and HP DL380 servers. After HP briefed Chace on its Adaptive Infrastructure in a Box, he found that he liked the management and implementation aspects. "I don't think it's cheap," he said, "but I find that you often get what you pay for. I have generally opted for HP servers and products because they are extremely reliable."

Pen-maker Pentel has 200 employees and is strictly an HP shop for storage with HP EVA4000 midrange SAN with an MSL4048 tape library and Data Protector backup software. IT director Matt Staver said he also has a BladeSystem c7000 Enclosure with SAN switches connected to the EVA4000. The appeal of HP's new package is that it is easy to configure and manage, "and priced appropriately," Staver said. "It strikes me as a solution that addresses the inflection point in a growing business as it transitions from an organic IT shop, grown out of necessity, into a formal department with clear service-level commitments and an ever expanding portfolio of service offerings."

Chace and Staver said their companies have the same needs as enterprises. For Burns & Levinson, that means keeping up with rapidly expanding Exchange databases. "No one deletes or archives anything any more, so the storage requirement just keeps growing and growing," he said.

As a private law firm, Burns & Levinson isn't regulated and doesn't have to retain email for compliance, but Chace finds that his users save just about everything anyway. "The attorneys practice law from their Exchange mailbox and also save tons of stuff in the document management system, and we do a fair amount of litigation that results in large load files to the lit[igation] support database," he said.

Some features that have become common for enteprises still remain out of the price range of medium-sized organizations. "I would suggest that the smaller and midsize business storage mantra would be something along the lines of 'I need enterprise features, but not on the enterprise scale and price,'" Staver said. "A number of key enterprise features are still often priced beyond the reach of the small and midsize business – cross-site data replication, for instance."

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