HP takes Google model to heart in new storage system

HP is getting ready to launch the ExDS, which will use up to 820 1T-byte drives for file-based storage, packaged in two 42U cabinets.

Hewlett-Packard is getting ready to launch the ExDS storage system, which will use up to 820 1T-byte drives for file-based storage, packaged in two 42U cabinets.

The system is an online content repository that comes in the shape of an appliance, according to Jim Haberkorn, whose job description as a director at HP's StorageWorks division includes hyping the system to potential customers.

"We first designed the product specifically for streaming media and for static media. We've got a company called Snapfish, and they have over 5 billion online images. We were kind of thinking of them when we designed it, and it wouldn't take much to go from static to streaming media, and it actually works really well for that," Haberkorn said.

But as HP has started to show the ExDS to potential customers, more ways of using it have come to light, including oil and gas companies that want to use it for seismic research. But in the end, many industries are thinking of ways to handle fast data growth.

Most likely companies that are interested in the new system have already looked at their old kind of storage, but have found it too expensive, that it takes up too much space or uses too much power for what they want to do, according to Haberkorn.

"Maybe they want to start an online backup service or start saving their customer's videos, or their snapshots themselves -- traditional storage doesn't allow them to reach the right economies in order to make that viable," Haberkorn said.

The system will cost less than US$2 per gigabyte or US$2,000 per terabyte. "That includes everything, so it includes the software, the hardware, the infrastructure, the cabinets, all the installation and all the services," Haberkorn said.

HP has tried to make it as easy as possible to manage. "We can install this in hours, and the customers can then install the storage and the compute power themselves," he said.

To keep costs down, HP's storage division has taken advantage of what already exists at HP, instead of starting from scratch. The system uses HP blade servers, and the drives are of course their own. "The hardware was the easiest thing to solve," Haberkorn said.

Both the number of blade servers and the number of drives can be scaled independently, depending on how much performance and storage are needed.

The model for building these kinds of storage systems is Google. By and large, how the search giant has managed to grow its infrastructure remains a closely guarded secret, according Haberkorn, but he is convinced ExDS can deliver better performance than Google's in-house system. "We, for example, get double the density, they get 6T bytes per U, we believe, and we get 12T bytes," said Haberkorn.

Haberkorn doesn't want to specify a launch date for the ExDS, other than saying it will be out later this year.

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