What ground Hewlett-Packard lost in recent months in revenue from personal systems - which triggered last week's surprise shutdown of webOS device operations - it has gained over the same period from enterprise products and services. Paying off in spades is 3PAR, the network storage device manufacturer that HP literally swiped from Dell's hands for a $2.35 billion purchase price. Last June's quarterly report pinned a big star on 3PAR, crediting it with turning the tide in storage revenue to 3% positive, quarterly year-over-year.

The keyword is "federation," which HP is invoking as a replacement for today's storage virtualization schemes.

Now, HP is making good on 3PAR's plan to rethink the infrastructure of storage networks. Today it announced new P10000-class storage systems, and a new class of storage management software called Peer Motion, which HP says utilizes both thin provisioning and peer-to-peer networking to shift workloads faster and more efficiently. The same peer-to-peer concept that eliminated the need for an administrative hub in home networking, is being put to use here by eliminating the need for a separate storage management appliance.

"Federation moves you beyond the boundaries of appliance-based storage virtualization and basic data migration," claims HP's latest video. It goes on to explain how Peer Motion software apportions network storage devices into storage pools, shifting the workload in-between devices in those pools dynamically, but essentially treating each pool as single, nebulous, flexible units.

It's being described as "load balancing at will."

"An issue with virtualization is the requirement for another product to reside in the data path, complicating storage network administration and costs," reads an HP white paper on the subject published today. "In order to deliver high availability, a pair of appliances is added to the storage network, adding yet another set of products to manage. The additional complications, costs and overhead in the data path have resulted in limited acceptance of external storage virtualization. Finally, storage virtualization does not allow the rich set of data protection features available in the underlying storage to be utilized. Storage virtualization instead requires another set of snapshot, replication and migration software adding more cost and complexity."

It's an intricate little strategy, but it's clever and it works like this: Business applications are moving to the cloud, in record volume. But businesses that utilize SaaS aren't necessarily relocating their data to the cloud as well. In order to keep things quick, data sets are still being hosted locally, HP contends.

Now, keep following because it gets tricky: Those applications move pretty fluidly through the network. So because "it is natural for applications and data to reside together," to cite the HP white paper, the data sets should move fluidly through the network as well. A conventional storage appliance (or even a virtual storage appliance, such as VMware's vSphere, center the data storage around the appliance's location rather than the convenience of the application.

So HP's solution, called "federated thin provisioning," pools storage from metropolitan (note: not remote) peer groups together, and enables the Peer Motion software to handle the maintenance and load balancing job normally handled by the appliance.
By comparison, HP goes on, "EMC's approach to Federated Data Movement requires the use of another large and complex product known as EMC VPLEX. EMC's solution... is to utilize a cluster of EMC VMAX systems, with an additional SAN virtualization cluster of EMC VPLEX systems residing between the host and storage system."

The result, the report concludes, is that as the size of storage networks increases beyond 100 hosts with 100 volumes, as shown in the chart above, EMC's data mobility becomes much more complex than HP's.

Worldwide availability of HP 3PAR P10000 storage systems begins August 29, with a list price of US$288,633. Peer Motion software is sold separately.