When Hewlett-Packard last year closed on its $2.7 billion acquisition of networking vendor 3Com, the deal gave the company the piece it was missing in the data center stack, a networking arm to complement its server, storage and management software businesses.
Now, armed with the complete data center package, HP executives are looking to push what they see as a key advantage over its rivals by ramping up its appliance strategy, offering more complete, tightly integrated and preconfigured solutions designed to run specific workloads.
HP executives gave the industry a look at the direction they're going June 6 during the first day of its HP Discover 2011 show in Las Vegas. HP unveiled a host of new converged data center offerings that fall in line with the company's Instant-On Enterprise initiative, including new server systems, storage solutions and a new, highly energy-efficient modular data center that offers high levels of performance while reducing capital expenses and power consumption.
David Donatelli, executive vice president and general manager of HP's Enterprise Servers and Networking Business Unit, said during a Webcast press conference that 18 months after his company announced its efforts behind converged data center products, his business unit has seen "incredible growth," including $22 billion in revenue in the first half of 2011. Donatelli said it was further validation that HP was moving in the right direction.
HP isn't the only vendor pushing appliances. For example, IBM has such offerings as its WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance for private cloud development. In addition, Oracle, through its acquisition of Sun Microsystems, is pushing appliances that couple its hardware with Sun's SPARC systems. The result so far has been such appliances as the Exadata database offering and Exalogic cloud-in-a-box offering.
HP is pushing further in that direction with the unveiling of its Converged Systems offerings, a portfolio of tightly integrated appliances that touch the application, virtualization and cloud-computing layers. Donatelli said HP's offerings are "appliances done right." HP took the first step in January, when it unveiled its CloudSystem appliance, designed to offer businesses a platform for building and managing services across public, private and hybrid clouds.
HP at its Las Vegas event rolled out the AppSystem and VirtualSystem appliances. The AppSystem is designed to offer high performance while being easier to deploy and manage than traditional servers. Included in the AppSystem offerings is the HP Vertica Analytics System, a business-intelligence platform that will challenge Oracle's Exadata. In addition, HP unveiled the Database Consolidation Solution and Business Data Warehouse Appliance, both optimized for Microsoft's SQL Server 2008 R2.
Cisco Systems also has embraced the appliance model with its UCS (Unified Computing System), which offers its servers and networking capabilities, along with storage and virtualization technologies from such partners as EMC and VMware.
HP's VirtualSystem is aimed at both virtualized server and desktop deployments, and will support virtualization technology from Microsoft, VMware and Citrix Systems. It can support from 750 to 6,000 virtual servers, or 3,000 virtual clients, according to Paul Miller, vice president of HP's Enterprise Server, Storage and Networking Alliances and Solutions group. Such a solution makes sense, given that 43 percent of virtual machines run on HP systems, Miller said.
VirtualSystem also creates a pathway for customers who want to continue onto cloud computing, he said.
A key differentiator for HP is its adherence to an open architecture, Miller said, calling appliance offerings from the likes of Oracle proprietary and a way of locking customers in to a single vendor. HP works with best-of-breed vendors, he said.
"Lock-in: That's what customers are afraid of," he said during the Webcast event.
HP also offered a host of new storage offerings designed to make enterprises more agile to help them adapt to the rapid changes going on in the industry driven by such technologies as Web browsers and mobile computing.