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Hiking Down From the APEX

APEX: The pinnacle, the top spot, the crown. That’s a pretty tall order. Or perhaps a clever acronym for the Application Performance Extender from HP. Not such a tall order, actually.

Yes, APEX is being heavily billed by HP as their differentiator to the recent storage announcement by Hitachi. We, HDS, call it the VSP (the Virtual Storage Platform), and HP calls it the P9500. Make no mistake, they are the same piece of hardware – or not, since HP has different covers — with exactly the same microcode (why would anyone ever want to maintain two code levels!?).

But there is always the desire to differentiate and that’s what HP is doing with APEX. My first thought was “big deal” that they own the HP UX platform and would rightfully want to leverage that. I have no problem with that, but their marketing and social media campaign on this front is a bit misleading.

I’m was in Dallas attending the SNW Fall conference earlier this week, and enjoyed the “networking” component of SNW. The APEX topic has come up only twice. To understand what was really going on about a product that originally underwhelmed me, I decided to take a further look and found a couple of compelling videos – one from Calvin Zito, @HPStorageGuy, and another whiteboard video by Ayman Abouelwafa, the designer guy. That said, I’d like to clarify one of the claims made in these videos.

HP’s claim of providing CPU prioritization capabilities is really misleading, which is why I didn’t think that much of APEX originally. APEX does provide a capability to prioritize CPU, cache and storage resources for a HPUX for Oracle applications, supported on HPUX only; however, for APEX supported non-HPUX platforms such as Windows or Linux, only server and/or WWN prioritizations are supported – nothing different than what HDS has been doing with Server Priority Manager for many years.

Further to this, HDS customers have a more flexible and complete SLA management solution to monitor and optimize ANY application workload via the SLO management capability of Hitachi Command Director v7, which is part of our Hitachi Command Suite. This is exclusive to HDS and is the preferred way to manage (monitor and optimize) storage performance-based SLOs. Bottom line – HDS has been talking storage performance-based SLA management for three years now, while HP is catching up and trying once again to position themselves as first to market.

One thing is for sure, with the exception of a vendor-specific identifier, the microcode versions of the P9500 and VSP are exactly the same.

Below is a screenshot of the Hitachi Command Director dashboard. The upper row of the screenshot says it all, meaning HP cannot claim that HDS does not have application-level storage optimization capabilities. This shows our unique capabilities in the area of SLA management, which once again is exclusive to HDS.

HP is a solid company with great engineering and I also don’t have any issue with Zito the HPStorageGuy (Barry Zito, the overpaid San Francisco Giants pitcher I do have issue with, and I assume they’re not related). But let’s not confuse the messaging here – HDS has been there, done that, when it comes to SLA / SLO management, so it’s nice to see that HP is validating a direction we took long ago.

Our screenshot is below…

hitachi-command-director

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Comments (3 )

John on 16 Oct 2010 at 5:30 am

Hello Claus,

like many others, i imagine, i found your writing via a somewhat sensationalized entry in the UK tabloid “”The Register”.

But wow, i really have to hand it to you, because this (above) is one absolute gemstone rarity: a storage vendor talking plain sense.

I’m biased against HP, not only because they are now only “HP” (not even full stops in between) but because VMS is the place to be in the market i deal with, and well, they don’t act corporatively like it’s a value to them to have such customers. In that same breath you know why i’m interested in HDS! :-)

There is so much voodoo, so much loose talk, being spilled by storage vendors lately, i feel i have to keep whispering “spinning rust, spinning rust” and check back at a few pictures of drives when a crash meant a wall broken down, to keep perspective. I’m putting it mildly: i believe the two worst things being sold to consumers recently are 1. high leverage FX trading 2. “small business” NAS. Not necessarily in that order. What shocks, is how little improvement there is when you walk upwards in the “food chain” of deals. Just more smokes and mirrors and sales types pretending to be engineers.

All it takes for a vendor to stand out is to try telling it how it is. Now, if only it didn’t take the sales cycle to sell the kit you are selling, i bet you guys (or anyone) could hit commodity pricing. As it is, putting down a 7 – figure deposit on critical data storage without which your bank forecloses, is a different proposition, and i know it and the pain as well if things go wrong, absolutely. But what makes the difference then? To my mind, integrity (not capitalized, not trademarked by a two letter company) is equivalent to frankness in business. If i wasn’t FDM, i’d be pasting copies of your writing about our c-suite, and anyhow i’m keeping a screenshot.

In a nutshell, if you have the capability, keep speaking as you just have. Cut through the waffle and inpenetratable non-marketing marketing of the rest which is so counter-productive for the industry i associate descriptions like “passive-aggressive” though i’m not sure that shouldn’t be properly configured in a failover array alongside “cloudy muddled and vague, with schitzoid tendencies”.

Hopefully meet you on our next upgrade path!

(the above, though convolute is really just a bit of fan – mail. I’m inpressed, and thank you for writing)

kind regards,

– john

Ayman on 17 Oct 2010 at 12:40 am

Dear Claus,
I’m afraid that we may have some misalignment somewhere, somehow.
I check HDS website at http://www.hds.com/fi/products/storage-software/hitachi-command-director.html , and I realized that Hitachi command Director Benefits are simply listed as “View, Report & Monitor” which I think this really means that this application is built to monitor and report and not perform active control unlike APEX. We (HP) would be happy to offer you a life demo of APEX capabilities while taking active control of the environment workload(s). please feel free to ask and we will be glad to demo APEX to you.
Ayman Abouelwafa

Claus on 25 Oct 2010 at 5:05 pm

HDS has had a service for several years now that not only monitors and reports on service level agreement (SLA) policies but recommends and automates the movement of data to tiers or pools that can satisfy the policy in question. The Hitachi Command Director 7 has been developed to address SLA monitoring and reporting with a future release to deliver the storage performance optimization component of the aforementioned service.

Claus Mikkelsen

Data Center Advisors

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