HP Converged Systems – New Business Unit, New Systems

HP ConvergedSystem Highlights

  • Launches ConvergedSystem brand and adjusts the organisation, brand, offerings and features
  • Improves the ordering process
  • Continues to focus on indirect sales
  • Adds OneView secret sauce orchestration software
  • Announces 5 new ConvergedSystems
  • Moves up the CIandIS stack
  • Will need to move rapidly to address 2014 opportunities

HP ConvergedSystem

In our view HP’s approach to Converged Infrastructure and Integrated Systems (CIandIS) has been unfocused in the last few years. Despite being its original supplier, it has fallen behind as Cisco (including FlexPod and VCE), IBM, Dell… in fact almost all other server vendors, who have introduced easy-to-deploy and manage systems combining servers, storage, networking and infrastructure software. It’s not that HP lacked offerings, just that it was slow to differentiate them in terms of functionally and in its marketing.

If you agree, you’ll want to decide whether these latests announcements put it back in the race.

Why Is CiandIS Vital In 2014?

CIandIS will account for 4% of data centre spending on servers, storage, networking and infrastructure software in 2013 and will grow to 8% by 2018. 2014 will be a vital year as vendors shift their focus from early adopters to the ‘late majority’. There’s a lot to play for, especially as we expect large organisations to spend 8% more on ITC than they did this year. As it lags its competitors HP will need to deploy its new strategy quickly to take advantage.

HP sees shifts in style of IT from the mainframe in the 1970s and 80s to client/server in the 1990s, the Internet in the 2000s and to ‘Cloud, Social, Big Data and Mobile’ in the 2010s – a reasonable approach, although we think none of the ‘styles’ has ever gone away and that its description of the latest has a catch-all definition.

In our research we prefer to look at types of supplier integration first – vertical to horizontal to matrix, before looking at the types of computer system they create. For us HP’s ‘Internet’ creates ‘user-built’ and its ‘Cloud, …’ ‘supplier-built’ integrated systems and the latter is the child of Matrix Integration.

How Has HP Changed Internally To Address The Opportunities?

HP has merged its age-old industry standard v business critical server divisions and adding a new converged systems unit to concentrate on user experiences and integrated systems. It has now adopted the same structure in EMEA where Iain Stephen takes responsibility for all (from his long-term in industry standard) servers and Mark Payne takes on converged business (from business critical). HP has many assets for building integrated systems – its acquisition of 3Par (storage), 3Com (networking), and Vertica gives it modern components, it has a lot of experience in designing and building data centres and it has strong partnerships with VMware, Citrix and Microsoft for hypervisors – and in the case of the latter, for applications. For now it is also the world’s largest supplier of x86 servers, although Dell has been getting closer in recent years.

HP Introduces ConvergedSystem

ConvergedSystem is an update of HP’s existing strategy, which supported CloudSystem, AppSystem and VirtualSystem products. It has made many enhancements and introductions today, including:

  • A faster ordering process, which will take ‘as few as’ 20 days from ordering to deployment (HP estimates for the CloudSystem 300) – a process that includes acceptance of a quotation for a simplified configuration that its then factory-built and tested and installed; it is moving from the current complex menu, which has 7 screen pages to configure and 200 quote line items, to a guided sale involving 5 clicks for a quotation with 1 quote page including 9-20 line items
  • HP Financial Services offers a ‘utility payment model’, leasing with monthly payments upwards from $2,250 for the system and from $550 for additional capacity. It also offers a pay-as-you-go ‘flexible capacity service’; HP Consulting Services are also offering assessment and deployment services for ConvergedSystem
  • OneView – a single management programme providing orchestration of the underlying infrastructure components; in our research we’ve found the ability of IBM’s FSM, Dell’s ASM and Cisco’s UC Director vital in automating the management of previously time-consuming manual activities which went unchallenged in the days of the horizontal market
  • HP has also tested and validated a number of leading workloads and applications for use on its new systems – namely Microsoft SQL Server, Exchange and Sharepoint as well as Red Hat RHEV

The Specific systems announced or enhanced today include ConvergedSystem:

  • 100 for Hosted Desktops is based on its Moonshot server running on AMD APU x86 chips and Citrix XenDesktop without a SAN or virtualisation layer; it is positioned between basic VDI and virtualised workstation systems, using it integrated graphics of the APU to provide mid-range graphics
  • 300 For Virtualisation, offering 50-300 VMWare virtual machines, which it claims are better and cheaper than the equivalents from VCE
  • 300 for Vertica providing near real-time analytics and promising much faster performance and lower cost than traditional data warehousing systems
  • 700, 700x for Virtualisation, offering 100-1k VMs (either VMware or Hyper-V), which it claims are better and cheaper than ‘do it yourself’ approaches

Although it offers ‘Autonomy as a Service’ in its public Cloud, we note that it has not added Autonomy to ConvergedSystem at launch, nor does it make any references to the Itanium chip. It will no doubt also address Microsoft Parallel Data Warehouse (PDW) and Hadoop in future.

VirtualSystem Brand Is Replaced, CloudSystem And AppSystem Continue For Now

While the ConvergedSystem name has replaced the older Virtual system one, HP is continuing with its other 2 brands to which it has also made some minor adjustments to its existing range. In particular:

  • CloudSystem (now with 1,100 customers) is based on OpenStack and includes HP’s Cloud OS; it has added OneView management software for faster, more automated application deployment
  • AppSystem for SAP HANA (500 deployed to date) is based on Xeon E7 processors and, due to SAP’s requirement for certification, are virtually identical to these software appliances from other hardware vendors apart from the storage subsystem based on 3Par StorServ

Over all it makes sense to fill out the range, while the simplification of the ordering process and addition of OneView should allow HP to move upwards towards the higher levels of the CIandIS stack (see Figure above). The significant reduction of component choices represents a significant shift away from its horizontal roots, although it will be harder than before for its third party resellers to maintain the same levels of upgrade and service activities.

Some Conclusions – HP Needs Agility To Succeed

HP dependence on the widest number of channel partners could be its Achilles’ heel as it rolls out these new systems: so far NetApp/Cisco’s FlexPod is the only CiandIS offering strongly supported by the channel. It’s going to be a tough job balancing the customer’s need for simplification with the channel’s need for revenues from upgrades and on-going servicing. It’s also harder to support sales of these systems through third parties: we’ve spoken to one HP customer this year who was none too pleased with being serviced by a VAR, having been sold to by HP.

HP has been so sluggish in shifting from its dependence on horizontal integration. While all suppliers missed out on the big shifts in system design driven by the large public Cloud providers, we believe it is currently missing much of the rapidly growing market for CIandIS addressed coherently by its competitors.

For the user having CiandIS systems based on ‘converged’ server, storage and networking components originating from a single hardware vendor is a ‘nice to have’, but not as important as the ease of management, speed of application deployment and having ‘one throat to choke’ when things go wrong.

HP’s challenge is to move up through the CiandIS layers to offer workload-optimised systems. Its new organisational structure, sales and ordering process changes and products will help, but it will need to be very agile to address the major opportunities arriving in 2014.

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About Martin Hingley