HPE introduced a new line of storage products, branded Alletra, this week during an online event. The new arrays shares DNA of their predecessors, but introduce a common API across two classes of storage that enable customers to consume the on-prem arrays in a cloud-native method.
Can I tell you a secret? I was underwhelmed at the announcement. But I also began to think more about what HPE is doing and why and I do believe this is a much bigger deal that I initially thought.
The new Alletra arrays come in two classes – the 6000 series and the 9000 series. The 6000 series is based on the Nimble DNA and the 9000 series is based on the Primera DNA, according to HPE. This means they are an iteration of the same or similar hardware platforms. Alletra is all NVMe. Alletra 9000 scales up to 4 controllers, the Alletra 6000 is a dual controller array. Beyond those basic facts, the underlying technical details weren’t discussed during the keynote – instead much of the focus is on operational style and business outcomes.
What differentiates the Alletra arrays from the previous HPE offerings is a centralized cloud management console that exposes the arrays for control and consumption by multiple levels of employee. The Data Services Cloud Console is the central point of control for the new storage arrays. It directs much of the operations, including decisions around placement and location of data – simplifying and abstracting it away from the user.
HPE had plenty of lofty ideas around exposing the Data Service Cloud Console directly to data users, enabling developers and data scientists direct access to request storage and deploy their data applications. To be clear, the keynote focused on outcomes and enablement – topics that resonate with IT managers. While this may all be true, there is certainly more orchestration required to integrate DSCC into a company’s overall strategy and delivery for data services.
The DSCC is built on Aruba Central DNA – a somewhat logical, if not unexpected platform. Aruba Central is HPE’s answer to easy configuration and deployment in the network world. That capability now comes to the Alletra arrays, promising quicker and more efficient configuration and setup.
Common and consistent API is a big win across the storage arrays. From a technology perspective, this offers IT administrators parity between the Alletra 6000 (based on Nimble DNA) and the Alletra 9000 (based on Primera/3PAR DNA). And while API’s don’t make for flashy keynotes, this is a key area of progress across HPE’s storage arrays.
This strategy has play with HPE’s Greenlake consumption model, operationalizing the costs of on-prem IT. 3PAR and Nimble offerings within Greenlake did not have a cloud control console where users could seamlessly manage their Greenlake arrays. The previous generation required storage administrators to carry out the wishes of customers. Data Services Cloud Console equalizes that and exposes the control directly to customers – so whether you’re buying CapEx or Greenlake, you get the same cloud enabled experience.
Built on solid foundations
For HPE, it marks a departure from its prior BIG storage news. The biggest announcements in HPE’s storage portfolio in the last 12 years have really been around acquisition. In 2010, HP outbid rivals to secure 3PAR and, frankly, a place at the table as a serious storage contender. 7 years later, HP purchased Nimble to focus and have additional internal offerings in the mid-range. Rounding out the portfolio, HPE continues to have the MSA product line, which is a private label arrangement with a third party, and its high-end XP product line which is co-branded with Hitachi. Besides some DAS offerings, these have been the mainstays of their portfolio for the last 5-ish years.
3PAR has always had a hardware component in its secret sauce, utilizing its ASIC for a number of acceleration and differentiation characteristics. Nimble is a great product on commodity hardware – a little storage array capable of lots of workloads – however the gem of Nimble was really Infosight, which continues to play a major role in Alletra. Shortly after acquiring Nimble, HPE began to integrate Infosight with its 3PAR arrays, a goal that is fully realized with Alletra. With a single shared API, both the HPE Alletra 6000 and 9000 series arrays gain parity to the AI-ops of Infosight.
Attendees heard repeatedly about the many pieces of DNA that formed this overall announcement. Each time you hear it, think intellectual property – assets that exist in the company already. This is a strong, intentional messaging. It speaks to the fact that HPE is assimilating its previous acquisitions and looking within to take the key pieces of other successful products and strategies and bring it together in a much bigger picture to solve its customers problems.
The acquisitions of 3PAR and Nimble have generally paid off well for HPE. There is great intellectual property being used across this new solutioning – for a recap:
- DSCC is based on Aruba Central cloud management
- Alletra 6000 series is based on Nimble’s chassis and OS
- Alletra 9000 series is based on Primera’s chassis, OS and scale
- Infosight is a critical component operating these arrays
- 3PAR SSMC was a predecessor simplified management console to abstract the difficulties of storage management
- Peer Motion and data services between the arrays lend themselves to the operational style in DSCC
- Data protection from Recovery Manager Central – with integrated data flows from primary to secondary storage arrays also play a role in the DSCC management
A single consistent management experience, that is simplified to an IT generalists’ skillset to manage, with the possibility of extending to more technical business users to consume – that is the messaging for HPE Alletra and its Data Service Cloud Console.
One concern is the over-simplification of the management. With this style of simple management, customization is often killed as a byproduct, meaning less capabilities and use-cases for the customer. While speed, agility and simplification are all great focus areas, there are still some complex data refresh problems, data flow problems and other use cases in this realm that need solutions. For those customers, fortunately the Primera and Nimble arrays are still available with no end in sight.
HPE is clear that Alletra is something new. No end of life dates or timelines were shared for Primera or Nimble going away. HPE has typically been a vendor who favors choice, so these will likely continue development and support far into the future. And choice is good, from a customers’ perspective.