Andrew Reichman
Today, HP announced that they will be acquiring the startup cluster file storage software firm IBRIX in a deal with few disclosed details. Congrats to HP for making another interesting acquisition in the clustered storage space, following their Feb. 2007 acquisition of Polyserve and their October 2008 acquisition of Lefthand. IBRIX makes software that allows users to cluster many nodes of storage (either industry standard servers or iSCSI/FC SAN arrays) for use in high performance global namespace file storage.  IBRIX’s customer base includes some 175 firms, generally in the high performance compute (HPC), video rendering/animation, and oil and gas exploration spaces.

This is an interesting move for HP who points to building share in HPC, content depot/cloud storage and archiving as key goals for this acquisition. Clearly those are high growth markets, so it’s no surprise that HP is interested in accelerating their traction there. But, it is surprising to see archiving and content depot listed as top level goals given that IBRIX doesn’t have WORM capability or object orientation. Additionally, you have to wonder what this says about Polyserve given that they were a maker of high scale global namespace file storage, and is now the basis for HP’s current cloud offering, XDS. There seems to be some overlap there, and it will be interesting to see what lines they draw to delineate use cases for customers.

Another area of concern here is the significant partnerships that IBRIX has with HP rivals EMC and Dell.  IBRIX was the original software used for EMC’s HULK scale out hardware offering before they completed the MAUI software that combined with HULK to make Atmos, EMC’s cloud storage offering. There are still a large number of users with highly complex environments that have IBRIX software mated to EMC as well as Dell hardware as back end storage; HP will have to be careful to avoid disrupting those power user customers as they develop their strategy for moving forward with IBRIX.

As with Polyserve and Lefthand, IBRIX is software only, so it makes sense for it to be owned by a major hardware player that can sell it as a comprehensive solution including hardware and services, rather than having customers cobble solutions together themselves. But, it will be tricky for HP to determine how to support existing solutions with gear from competitive vendors, how much to combine it with other software versus leaving it as a standalone product, and how it can fit with HP’s broader vision of storage.

On the positive side, HP has many back ends that could fit different types of IBRIX deployments, from Proliant servers to Lefthand iSCSI storage to EVA mid range SAN arrays, so the likelihood is that they have the right raw materials to make it work. On the negative side though, HP now has a very broad lineup of storage products, some internally developed, some acquired and some delivered through partnerships, and maintaining a consistent vision and value proposition that meet specific customer requirements may be a challenge.

By Andrew Reichman

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