HP Launches Its Own Unified Computing System for SMBs

UPDATED: HP joins forces with Microsoft (collaboration and database software), Citrix (virtualization layer), recently acquired 3Com (networking) and several other companies for the products and services for its Converged Infrastructure offering.

CUPERTINO, Calif.-Hewlett-Packard, during a June 2 press conference introducing a new set of data center products for small and midrange business systems, also revealed that it is now selling support for a unified computing, collaboration and communications system aimed at SMBs.
HP has joined forces with Microsoft (which will supply the collaboration and database software) and Citrix (virtualization layer) and will be using its new acquisition, 3Com, to do the networking in its Converged Infrastructure offering.
It's not that HP, which may have a larger catalog of IT products and services than even IBM, didn't already have most of the parts in a warehouse for such a system.
It's just that the company has now assembled partners, products and services to sell systems in preconfigured (if necessary) packages for smaller companies with few or no IT personnel. HP defines SMBs as having from 1 to 999 employees.
Data systems suppliers have long known that the more software that is configured in advance and the simpler the controls are, the faster the systems will sell. Now that the macroeconomy is picking up, corporate capital that wasn't there 12 to 18 months ago is generally more available to pay for system refreshes.
Unified computing and communications systems consist of interconnected nodes of servers, storage arrays and switches that-thanks to virtualization-look like a singular logical body when viewed collectively.
These systems are highly scalable, customizable, redundant and secure, and feature multiple methods of high-bandwidth connectivity, including Fibre Channel, 10Gb Ethernet, SAS and iSCSI.
This new set of products also includes telephony and collaboration components.
"HP is articulating [with regard to new data center systems and system refreshes] that the SMB space is diverse and that 'one size does not fit all,'" Chad Thompson, an IT analyst with AMI Partners, told eWEEK.
"If you can grab off certain components and try to map them to a specific set of needs that are discrete, they're going to translate to SMB systems needs much better. That's what HP is offering.
"This all points to business continuity. SMBs now know that if their systems go down, they're not only going to lose money, but they could be out of business very quickly," Thompson said.
Listing of new HP products, services
Key new products announced in the June 2 HP Converged Infrastructure launch include:
Storage: HP introduced three new StorageWorks arrays: the entry-level X310 Data Vault for up to 10 clients, including Macs and PCs; the X1000 Network System, which runs twice the number of drives of previous generations yet uses only half the space; and the P2000 G3 SAS Modular Array, which has double the capacity of the previous-generation machine.
The P2, the star storage array in HP's new unified structure, features 6Gb Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) connectivity that provides shared storage across a SAN using drop-down menus and wizards that do not require traditional IT expertise.
Networking: The HP V1410 switch features eight-, 16- and 24-port gigabit options and "plug and play"-type connectivity among client PCs, servers and storage devices, HP marketing executive Duncan Campbell said. The V1410 switch is the newest member of HP's recently expanded V-series portfolio, which now offers wired and wireless networking for SMBs.
Software: HP and Microsoft are folding together their messaging, collaboration and telephony software for mobile devices, including HP and Microsoft Unified Communication & Collaboration for servers, storage, networking and applications to streamline operations across messaging, video and voice applications.
--HP Virtual Rooms is HP's answer to Cisco's TelePresence, only the real-time windows are on PCs, not on life-size screens. The interactive application enables clients to connect employees, partners and clients in one virtual online location; it features monthly billing pricing options.
--Small Biz Nation offers peer-to-peer support as well as resources via a new LinkedIn community sponsored by HP and Intel.
--HP 48Upper is an online service and community of experts that enables IT professionals to manage all the processes that make up IT-from project planning and operations to service management, Campbell said.
Services: These include the new HP Download Store, which offers access to HP's premium support services without an annual contract, Campbell said. The store offers a choice of six pay-as-you-go support and collaboration services, including HP SmartFriend Assistance and HP Performance Tune-up Service.
--A new PC Helpdesk and Windows 7 Onsite Upgrade Service.
-- HP Proactive Select Services offers expert resources on demand at variable prices. Through HP or its channel partners, clients can access services across information technology infrastructure library (ITIL), blades, storage and virtualization, Campbell said.
All the new products and services are now available, Campbell said.
HP focusing on its longtime expertise
Fifteen months ago, in the wake of the Cisco UCS launch, HP-which has been in the IT systems business for more than three generations-was pretty candid about the new challenge.
The Cisco-EMC-VMware collaboration, introduced in March 2009, was perceived by several IT analysts as a clear shot across the bow at HP, which had no competing system at that time.
"Would you let a plumber build your house?" Jim Ganthier, HP's vice president of infrastructure software and blades, asked eWEEK at the time. "Cisco's network-centric view of the data center is great for bandwidth management, but leaves a lot to chance in terms of service-level delivery as well as data reliability and accessibility."
IBM also makes available its own form of unified computing, through its Global Services arm, although it hasn't officially labeled it as such.
HP's case is all about clear-cut return-on-investment numbers, long-time expertise, and lots of new-generation hardware and software to go with it all, Thompson of AMI told eWEEK.
"This feels like HP's response [to Cisco, et al], at least for now," Thompson said.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...