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HP girds for grid storage campaign

The computing giant talks up new storage products and plans after a major sales stumble.

Hewlett-Packard on Tuesday tried to revitalize its sagging data storage division by announcing new products and plans centered on the idea of a storage "grid."

Grid computing links computers to harness their collective resources, and HP said its grid approach to storage is designed to let customers focus more on how they use data, not how they store it.

"As more data and business processes go digital, customers need technology that helps them break down the walls that divide their data and transform it from a static form into something that works for them," Mike Feinberg, chief technology officer of HP's Network Storage Solutions unit, said in a statement.

Among the products announced was a smaller-scale version of HP's Reference Information Storage System, which archives and retrieves e-mail and Microsoft Office documents. HP also unveiled a product designed to use the RISS system and multifunction printers and software to capture paper documents in digital form, manage them and make them available for quick retrieval. The company also introduced what it called the XP12000, a high-end disk array based on a new machine from Hitachi Data Systems.

Over the next year, HP said, it will introduce a series of storage products for file serving, archiving and management.

Storage hardware sales are growing, partly because corporate information keeps expanding and newer regulations call for increased retention of data. But HP has lost ground recently. In the second quarter of this year, the company's revenue from external disk storage systems fell to $631 million, down 8.3 percent from the same period a year ago, according to research firm IDC. HP had held the top spot in this category in the second quarter of 2003, but in the most recent quarter, rival EMC ranked first. EMC's sales of external disk storage rose 19.5 percent year over year to $719 million, according to IDC.

Trouble in HP's server and storage unit hurt the company's financial results for the quarter ended July 31, and prompted HP to oust several executives.

Storage woes at HP have been attributed to distribution problems as well as weak products in the midrange disk storage market. HP has since upgraded those products.

HP said it is now offering a RISS system with a capacity of 1 terabyte, in addition to the 4 terabyte product it already sells. The smaller product is priced under $100,000, HP said, and the XP12000 is priced under $450,000.

John McArthur, an analyst at IDC, said HP's RISS product "solves a real problem" when it comes to archiving and searching content. Although RISS competes against established products, including EMC's Centera, McArthur expects it "to get some traction."