HP’s Tech Days this week in Colorado Springs impressed on two levels. First, their willingness to engage with the analysts and writers tagged with the disreputable term “blogger.” Second, the quality of the strategy they outlined for a unified computing and storage strategy.

The outline: use a dense CPU and storage commodity-based hardware infrastructure with layered cluster storage software to build flexible and resilient scale-out storage.

The combination of LeftHand networks scale-out iSCSI and IBRIX scale-out NFS gives the company an excellent foundation. They are still thinking through what IBRIX means for them but the fundamental promise of a common hardware infrastructure whose compute resources can easily be repurposed to scale-out storage or application services is compelling.

One surprise was that the team hadn’t grasped the implications of pNFS for their strategy. Parallel NFS is part of the NFS 4.1 spec and should be market ready, if the schedule holds, in the second half of next year.

pNFS should be a major plus for HP. If you’re selling massive scalable storage it helps to have clients capable of consuming massive capacity and bandwidth.

The biggest hole in HP’s strategy is their go-to-market plan. They don’t have one.

The wholesale rejection of EMC’s Atmos by the EMC sales force shows the depth of the problem. Salesmen would rather sell a $500,000 box on 1 PO rather than $500,000 on 5 POs spread over a year.

HP’s sales force is less combative than EMCs but they can count dollars just as well. Corporate is going to have to think long and hard to develop a plan to get HP sales excited about selling unified storage.

The StorageMojo take
Kudos to HP for bringing us in without requiring non-disclosures. NDA’s carry the implicit promise of retribution for analysts who display too much independence, as EMC well knows.

HP’s strategy and architecture isn’t as sexy as the Atmos strategy but it may be better aligned with the sweet spot of enterprise needs. The cutting edge computer science in Atmos offers great promise, but in LeftHand and IBRIX HP has much more mature software than Atmos will have for years.

If HP aligns their sales force with the scale-out commodity hardware strategy it will force EMCs sales people to take Atmos seriously. It is a new day in enterprise storage when customers have a choice of scalable commodity-based storage systems from two major vendors.

In the larger scheme of things both HP and EMC are well-positioned. It is IBM, Hitachi and NetApp that need to sharpen their games for an even more competitive storage market.

Courteous comments welcome, of course. Disclosure: HP picked up the travel and lodging tab and I’ve done work for IBRIX in the past.