What could be more appropriate?
HP’s lackluster showing in The Info Pro’s survey – see yesterday’s post – reminded me that I’d written about HP shortly after after I’d started blogging (see HP’s Storage Grid-lock: panic-stricken execs promise fix in four years).

Here’s a quote from the September 2004 post:

HP’s storage shortfall this past quarter has Carly pulling out the stops to save one of HP’s few high-margin non-printer businesses. Firing executives, check. Inspirational speech to resellers, check. Roll out ambitious product roadmap for delivery in 2008, check.

2008!?! Why not just put out a press release titled ” HP execs panic over storage shortfall, have no clue how to fix business in less than four years”? Then, at least, they could start facing up to their real problems.

Issuing long-range roadmaps is always a move of pure desperation, so the HP storage business must be considerably weaker than they have let on.

So what were they going to deliver this year?
Get this wacky idea: a storage grid. As an HP whitepaper described it:

The HP StorageWorks Grid will be built from intelligent building blocks called smart cells. These elements will incorporate commodity hardware. In addition to the expected control and storage hardware, smart cells will incorporate a flexible operating environment that allows storage functions to be downloaded as needed—and allows smart cells to be repurposed if necessary.

While the 4 year timeline was laughable the actual proposal was smart and forward-looking. The technology was there. But the paper didn’t address the business dynamics that would enable HP to bring the project to fruition. In other words, the marketing problem.

Clearly no one else did either.

The StorageMojo take
Today clustered storage is the obvious successor to big-iron arrays. When HP wrote the paper it wasn’t. If they’d followed through they’d be the thought leaders in the industry and well-positioned to take commercial leadership as well.

As I noted then,

But HP’s roots as a device company have always made the systems approach [. . .] difficult to execute. Even though HP bought a strong storage business with Compaq (which won it when they bought DEC) and the StorageWorks line, the feckless storage mavens in Palo Alto (best idea ever: “Let’s introduce EMC into all our top corporate accounts! It’s cheap, easy and with no engineering its all profit!”) have managed to run it into the ground.

HP should take a leaf from Sun’s storage strategy: move storage software from tin-wrapped boxes into the OS group where commodity servers and networks can provide cost-effective infrastructure.

HP had a great idea 4 years ago. Now it’s time to deliver.

Comments welcome, of course.