HP Aims to Create Networking Platform for UC

HP is unveiling enhanced routers that will enable businesses to leverage Microsoft’s Lync solution as well as offerings from VMware and Riverbed.

Hewlett-Packard is offering networking gear designed to make it easier for businesses to deploy and manage their increasingly varied communications solutions.

At the Enterprise Connect 2013 show in Orlando, Fla., March 19, HP officials are introducing multi-service routers (MSRs) aimed at giving organizations the network infrastructure they need to create highly collaborative environments that can take advantage of the powerful unified communications (UC) offerings on the market and handle such trends as a more distributed workforce and bring your own device (BYOD).

"We want to simplify the implementation of technology and how you work," Rob Owyang, director of global solution marketing at HP Networking, told eWEEK, noting the growth of UC technology in the last 10 years.

The giant technology vendor is leveraging its decades-long partnership with Microsoft to make it easier for businesses to use the software company's Lync collaboration platform, not only by integrating it into HP's router but also offering it as a cloud service. Owyang said organizations are finding that their ability to more easily use Microsoft business software within their UC environments helps drive the increased employee productivity that is promised with collaboration solutions. HP's work with Microsoft over the past 20-plus years gives it an advantage in bringing such integration between UC and Microsoft software to organizations, he said.

"HP has a very long-standing strategic relationship with Microsoft," Owyang said.

Microsoft has been the target of a recent push by Cisco Systems, which has been promoting the benefits of its UC offerings over Lync. At the same time, Cisco and HP over the past few years have intensified their competition in several areas of the data center, including networking.

Among the offerings announced March 19 was HP's MSR Survivable Branch Communication Module (SBM), a business continuity solution that offers Microsoft's Lync Survivable Branch software preinstalled into HP's MSR30 and MSR50 Series routers. HP's MSR SBM—which Owyang called a "branch in a box"—enables businesses to continue using their collaboration tools, such as voice, video, instant messaging and presence, even when their corporate networks or WANs are out.

With the Microsoft software preinstalled, the HP routers offer everything from routing and switching to wireless, security and voice services converged onto the branch network. It also offers storage, Gigabit Ethernet and USB network interfaces, which can help reduce a business' network footprint, power consumption and overall costs.

At the same time, HP has submitted its MSR Series voice gateways for qualification with Microsoft's Lync Unified Communications Open Interoperability Program to make sure that the routers can make calls over the public switch telephone network. In addition, because HP is a Lync Certified Support Partner for Microsoft's Lync, IT staffs only have to call HP for IT support for environments running Lync, he said.

HP also is launching a UC-as-a-service solution through which the vendor's Enterprise Services unit offers Lync through the cloud, saving businesses from having to make up-front infrastructure investments. In addition, through HP's enhanced 4120 IP phones, businesses can gain easy access to Lync and cloud-based offerings hosted on HP's private cloud.

The offering is another way for businesses to get instant connectivity at any time without having to buy hardware up-front—users can log into their Lync account through the phone by entering their PIN, according to HP.

HP also is working with VMware to create an offering that enables virtualized services to be delivered on a single platform. HP's MSR Open Architecture Platform with VMware vSphere Series integrates third-party software onto HP's MSR30 and MSR50 routers. The first of these applications supported on the new platform is Riverbed Technology's WAN optimization solution, which can boost application performance on the network as much as 50 times, according to HP officials.

As with HP's work with Microsoft's Lync, HP not only offers services related to the VMware vSphere offering and the Riverbed application integration, but also becomes a single point of contact for customers with questions about any of these vendors' offerings.

In addition, to help customers build out their UC strategies based on HP products and services, HP is offering what officials are calling the Mobility Transformation Experience Workshop, a daylong workshop run by HP consultants.

The workshops will touch on everything from enabling UC to redefining productivity.