HP unveils network, storage gear to feed SMB demand

Increasingly lean small businesses need greater capabilities with easier management, the company said

Hewlett-Packard on Wednesday introduced a variety of products for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), a segment that worldwide spends an estimated US$234 billion per year on IT products, the company said.

The company announced the products at an event in Cupertino, California, where executives said HP had a broad portfolio across PCs, servers, networking, storage and printing, but one that can sometimes be overwhelming to SMBs.

Small businesses are beginning to emerge from the global economic downturn, but that recovery will not be steady, said Chad Thompson, an analyst at Access Market International Partners in New York, who spoke at HP's event.

"This is not a nice, linear curve moving out of the recession," Thompson said. Especially for SMBs, future conditions can be hard to predict, he said.

And like enterprises, small IT departments now have to do more with less, because many small companies have had to cut a single IT staffer to half-time or eliminate dedicated technology staff completely, Thompson said.

As a result, HP aims to help its SMB customers manage their infrastructure, using simpler products as well as some new help tools.

Though HP's offerings are broad, on Wednesday the company focused mostly on networking and storage, both areas where investment is expected to rise over the next few years. While SMB technology spending overall will grow at a rate of 3.6 percent per year until 2014, spending on LAN hubs and switches will grow by 29 percent per year and network-attached storage by 30 percent, AMI's Thompson said. Fibre Channel SANs (storage area networks) and server-attached storage also will grow at several times the overall pace, Thompson said.

HP updated its V family of LAN gear for SMBs by introducing the HP V1410 Switch Series, a more energy-efficient evolution of the V1400 that offers more configuration choices and use options. The V1410 is available in fixed-configuration designs with eight, 16 or 24 ports of 10/100/1000M bps (bits per second). No 16-port version was available for the V1400.

The switches now include a slot for a Kensington Computer Products lock, the inserted locks often used to secure personal computers. This feature is critical for some small businesses, where network switches may be kept on a desk in an open area, according to HP. The V1410 series is shipping now, with starting prices from US$109 (eight-port) to $379 (24-port).

The company also boosted the capacity of some SMB storage platforms, including the StorageWorks X1000 Network Storage System and P2000 G3 SAS (Serial Attached SCSI) Modular Array.

The latest generation of the X1000 allows for double the capacity of previous versions in half the space, according to HP. Enhanced HP Automated Storage Manager software allows companies to enable file sharing between client systems in 20 minutes or less, compared with 60 minutes in the previous generation, HP said. The StorageWorks P2000 adds 6G bps SAS capability, as well as software that can replicate snapshots of data to a different set of disks in the array.

HP also rolled out the StorageWorks X310 Data Vault, a system for SMBs with limited IT staff. Its user interface is based on Microsoft Windows Home Server, for ease of installation and management, HP said. The X310 can accommodate as much as 15T bytes of storage when external drives are attached via eSATA and USB ports. It can perform automated daily backup for as many as 10 client PCs or Macs.

The X310 Data Vault carries a starting list price of $549. The X1000 Network Storage Systems begin at $3,152 and the P2000 series starts at $8,970. All are available now.

Also on Wednesday, HP announced it is working with Microsoft to help channel partners configure HP hardware platforms with Microsoft collaboration software such as Exchange Server, Communications Server and SharePoint. Together, the companies will advise channel partners on the best configurations and will jointly market the hardware and software for collaboration within and between small businesses, said Duncan Campbell, vice president of converged infrastructure and SMB marketing at HP.

HP also pointed to increased use of online support resources as well as purchasing for SMBs. The company plans to increase the offerings available through its direct online sales site for "micro offices" of less than 10 people, to include storage, networking and mobile products. It currently offers PCs, printers and ProLiant servers.

The company also plans to tap into cloud-based SMB support through 48Upper, an online platform through which people with IT responsibilities in small businesses can share expertise with their peers through social networking. It is coming later this year, Campbell said.

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