Today, HP announced the intention to acquire iSCSI storage vendor LeftHand Networks for $360 Million in cash. LeftHand makes virtualized storage array software that can turn just about any server, PC or subset of disks on a device into a full featured IP based SAN array with features like space efficient snapshots, distance replication support and thin provisioning. LeftHand has a tight partnership with VMware, and does both standard virtual server attach to SAN, as well as some innovative virtual appliance models that turn the physical disks on board a VMware server into an array. The LeftHand software can span across multiple physical devices, allowing for combinations of virtual appliances and dedicated servers.

It’s no surprise to see LeftHand get snapped up by a major storage vendor as they are one of the few remaining independent storage vendors in a market where it’s hard to be small and go it alone. It’s a particularly good fit for HP though for a number of reasons. For one, about half of LeftHand’s 3000+ installs use HP servers as a back end. HP states that they are committed to supporting existing customers regardless of what platform they are on, but they are eager to take advantage of their strength in delivering industry standard servers as the go forward back end for LeftHand. This is also a good thing for customers who will benefit from the simplicity of a well integrated packaged solution including hardware and software. The acquisition also gives an immediate boost to HP’s story around advantages for VMware attach, which is currently one of the hottest battlegrounds for all storage vendors.

What’s more, like PolyServ, the clustered NAS firm bough by HP, LeftHand is at its core a software company. This means that HP can continue selling the current LeftHand product family, and eventually take advantage of the capabilities throughout the rest of the HP StorageWorks family. Existing HP storage products can use the help as the iSCSI offerings are weak, they have no true thin provisioning, snapshot count and manageability can use a boost and the overall EVA architecture would benefit from more virtualization and flexibility. The LeftHand technology stack should help to accelerate HPs roadmap in these key areas, helping them improve current offerings and at the same time build towards the virtualized, scale-out storage that is likely to be the architecture of choice in most datacenters in the near future.

By Andrew Reichman

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