Egenera, HP Partner on Converged Infrastructure Solution

HP will integrate Egenera's PAN Manager software into its Intel-based BladeSystem servers and its Virtual Connect FlexFabric module.

Egenera, which already works with Dell and Fujitsu to get its PAN Manager software onto their blade servers, has now picked up Hewlett-Packard as a partner.

Egenera announced April 7 that HP will offer PAN Manager on its Intel-based BladeSystem c-class servers, a move that will give HP's BladeSystem customers more options when it comes to system-management software, and also reinforces the decision by Egenera's executives to focus on its software offerings while scaling down their hardware business.

The company's PAN Manager software offers enterprises the ability to take static data center resources-servers, networking devices and storage-and create flexible pools of resources that can be allocated and then re-allocated based on business demands. Provisioning of both physical x86 servers and virtual machines is simplified. Along with the unified computing element, PAN Manager also offers high availability and disaster-recovery capabilities.

As the industry moves to a more converged data center infrastructure-a la Cisco Systems' UCS (Unified Computing System)-most OEMs, including HP, offer their own infrastructure-management software. However, by partnering with Egenera to offer PAN Manager with their systems, infrastructure vendors are giving their customers more options in that area, which is important, given the heterogeneous nature of most data centers, according to Egenera CEO Peter Manca.

"It's really about [customer] choice," Manca said in an interview with eWEEK, noting that businesses with an all-HP data center would probably opt for HP's management software. "If it's [a] heterogeneous environment ... PAN Manager can work across all those platforms."

Demand for unified-computing offerings will only grow. Market research firm Gartner is estimating that by 2012, 30 percent of the world's top 2,000 companies will use some form of converged infrastructure in their data centers. Thomas Weisel Partners is predicting that sales of converged data center solutions will grow from $1 billion in 2010 to $15 billion by 2014.

Egenera is integrating PAN Manager-based on the company's Processing Area Network concept-with HP's BladeSystem offerings and its Virtual Connect FlexFabric module. The integration will enable PAN Manager to offer 10 times the throughput in data center environments the Egenera software manages, according to Egenra officials.

For Egenera, the HP deal means that between HP, Dell and Fujitsu, its PAN Manager software is now offered on more than two-thirds of the blade servers sold every year worldwide, Manca said. Currently the management software is deployed at more than 1,600 sites around the globe.

It's also a validation of Egnera's transition from a hardware maker to a software vendor, he said. For several years, the company sold its Intel-based BladeFrame servers, which were managed by the company's PAN Manager software. Egenera's hardware-software offerings were designed to create a flexible, unified data center solution for businesses.

However, it was difficult for a company the size of Egenera to compete with such giants as IBM, Dell, HP and-now-Cisco in the Intel-based server market, Manca said.

"It's tough in the Intel space to turn a profit without scale," he said.

However, Egenera executives saw the potential for marketing the PAN Manager software, and two years ago began transitioning the company away from the BladeFrame systems and toward making PAN Manager much more available to other vendors. Now Egenera sells BladeFrames to existing users, but is not picking up new hardware customers, Manca said.

The transition appears to be paying off. In February, Egenera officials announced that 2010 was the best year financially in the company's history, with software orders doubling quarter-over-quarter and the number of software customers tripling. Egnera's software orders were up 200 percent over 2009, with the average PAN Manager order size doubling during that time.