HP Unveils Converged Data Center Strategy

HP's Converged Infrastructure Architecture relies heavily on the company's own technology, a departure from the partner-heavy data center initiatives from such rivals as Cisco, Dell and IBM. The HP strategy includes hardware, software and services to create an infrastructure that brings together computing, storage, networking and management resources into a single pool designed to help increase businesses' agility and efficiency and drive down operation and maintenance costs in the data center.

Hewlett-Packard is pulling together a host of new and existing products and services to create a converged infrastructure solution that officials say will give businesses a clear alternative to more partner-driven offerings from the likes of Cisco Systems and IBM.

HP officials rolled out their Converged Infrastructure Architecture Strategy Nov. 4, a day after Cisco, storage giant EMC and virtualization technology vendor VMware announced a tighter partnership to develop and market preintegrated computing systems called vBlocks.

HP's decision to rely mostly on its own technology to create its converged data center solution will be a key differentiator as it competes with other top-tier IT vendors for what officials believe will be a $35 billion market opportunity by 2012.

"We're the only one with the IP [intellectual property] across the [technology] stacks," David Donatelli, executive vice president of HP's Enterprise Servers and Networking, said in an interview, noting the vendor's high positions in such markets as industry-standard servers, enterprise networking and storage. "You can't partner your way to a converged architecture. You have to work your way from the ground up."

Donatelli and Paul Miller, vice president of marketing for HP's Enterprise Storage and Servers unit, said the key problem converged networks are trying to solve is IT sprawl in data centers, which is leading to a disproportionate share of enterprise technology budgets-about 66 percent-being spent on maintenance and operations, with only 34 percent left over for innovation.

That's hindering what companies can do to grow their businesses, Miller said. Converged data center solutions can lead to greater flexibility and efficiency by tightly integrating the server, storage, networking and management software aspects of the data center, he said. Virtualization is a key enabler of converged data centers.

"Efficiency is the No. 1 [enterprise concern]," Donatelli said.

HP and rival vendors have been aggressively pushing in this direction for more than a year. Cisco earlier this year introduced UCS (Unified Computing System), an all-in-one solution that includes its own servers and networking, plus products from EMC, VMware and Intel.

HP answered with its BladeSystem Matrix all-in-one converged offering.

As part of their 2-year-old Data Center Networking strategy designed to reintegrate computing, storage and networking in the data center, IBM officials in July announced tighter partnerships with networking vendors Cisco, Juniper Networks and Brocade Communications Systems.

In September, Dell announced its Efficient Enterprise converged data center strategy, which includes partnerships with Brocade and Scalent Systems.

The bulk of HP's initiative will be built with its own new and enhanced products, Donatelli and Miller said.

Included in the innovations is the HP FlexFabric, a single virtualized networking fabric that can connect thousands of servers and storage devices on demand. FlexFabric converges the benefits of HP's ProCurve and Virtual Connect products.

FlexFabric not only works with HP's x86 blade servers, but also the company's Integrity and Nonstop blades powered by Intel's Itanium processors, Miller said.

In addition, HP's new Infrastructure Operating Environment enables IT administrators to dynamically provision the infrastructure, creating an adaptable and flexible environment. In addition to Windows and Linux applications, the IOE also supports HP-UX, HP's Unix OS that runs on its Integrity systems.

HP's Virtual Resource Pools virtualize servers, storage and networking resources, which Miller said will enable easier and more flexible provisioning of resources depending on business demands. Energy efficiency is provided through HP's Data Center Smart Grid, through which data center administrators can set policies for power consumption and monitor energy use based on data the software collects.

In addition, HP is offering new consulting services to support the Converged Infrastructure Architecture through planning, design and implementation help.