LeftHand Networks was one of the first vendors in the iSCSI market and has always had the best of the iSCSI solutions that runs on standard x86 server hardware. It has transitioned over the past couple of years from selling whitebox servers with its SAN/iQ software bundled in to primarily selling SAN/iQ as software, upping the ante this February by releasing SAN/iQ as a VMware virtual appliance.Meanwhile, HP's iSCSI solutions have all been unsatisfying in one way or another. The AIO uses Windows Storage Server and is built in iSCSI target software, formerly String Bean Software's WinTarget. Even hard-core Windows administrators like me find the thought of using Windows to run a production SAN array a little scary. Come Patch Tuesday, the system admins have to bring all the iSCSI-attached servers down to patch the AIO and then bring everything up in the right order.
The MSA is too limited, supporting just 16 hosts and lacking array-based replication. And don't get me started about HP's iSCSI solution for its otherwise quite respectable EVA, which uses an iSCSI to Fibre Channel bridge, making an iSCSI EVA cost more than a Fibre Channel EVA.
HP's seen a place for SAN/iQ for a while as it's been reselling a DL380 SAN/iQ bundle since 2006. HP's Prolaint users, and resellers, are incredibly loyal and huge numbers of them haven't yet gotten on the SAN bus. When these SME customers start looking at VMware infrastructure and find out that they can't use cool features like Vmotion with SmartArrays and DAS cabinets, they'll be happy to hear HP's virtual iSCSI story.
Financially, LeftHand is going for quite a bit less than the 1.4 billion samolians Dell ponied up for EqualLogic, but Dell paid that premium because EqualLogic was on the verge of a successful IPO. In today's financial climate, the VCs that put $75 million into LeftHand should be happy to get $360 in cash out.
My compatriot George Crump thinks this puts HP in the position of having too many storage platforms and laments that SAN/iQ will wither on the vine. It could happen. We've seen HP buy products before to have them disappear off the face of the earth. I'm hopeful HP will see the iSCSI light and realize that it needs to continue developing its new virtual iSCSI array.