HP Targets VCE With Converged System Lineup

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HP says its move to converged system data center offerings will help partners increase volume and focus on higher-value services.

[caption id="attachment_33496" align="alignright" width="150"]HP Converged Systems chief Tom Joyce HP Converged Systems chief Tom Joyce[/caption]

Hewlett-Packard Co. kicked off its Discover event in Barcelona with the introduction of new members of its Converged System lineup, claiming cost and ease of use advantages over competitors in the space.

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The company’s Converged Systems 300 and 700 offerings combine compute, storage, and networking into a single data center stack, an HP-only offering that competes with similar offerings from Cisco/VMware/EMC combination VCE.

Tom Joyce, senior vice president and general manager of Converged Systems for HP, called the new systems the beginning of “the third wave of virtualization,” one which will be based on running virtual machines in a more managed fashion on “hyper-efficient systems designed for running virtualization.”

“Our customers want to get out of the hardware integration business,” Joyce said. “They don’t want to have to put this all together. They want to move past complex and custom, towards standard and simple.”

And customers aren’t alone in that desire. Paul Miller, vice president of Converged Systems at HP, said that while partners might miss out on the hardware integration services they previously offered to data center customers, the loss of those services won’t be missed.

“They’re using very expensive resources to do that, and it’s hard for them to make any money out of it,” Miller said. “With Converged Systems, those resources are now doing data center integration and other high-value services instead.”

Those data center integration services will be opened up to the channel early next year. While Converged System offerings are shipped pre-integrated, there is some installation, both physical and software configuration, and integration that needs to be done with a customer’s environment. Miller said that under a program called ChannelFirst, HP will make Converged System deployment services available to the channel in January.

Combine those higher-margin services with faster time to market – HP says there are advantages both in terms of sales cycle (20 minutes to generate a one-page quote for a customer) and deployment cycle (HP says Converged Systems can typically be up and running in a customer’s environment 20 days from purchase) – and HP paints a picture of both adding margin to partners’ data center practices and increasing volume.

Miller said that Converged Systems deployment will get partner spiffs across the server, storage, and networking components that are included in it, and that the company is eyeing specific partner incentives on top of that. All-in, he said he expected partners should be able to realize “mid to high 30s” percentage margins on Converged System deployments.

While HP currently quotes 20 days from purchase to deployment for Converged Systems, and says that’s a significant advantage over its rivals in the converged infrastructure space, Joyce said he expects that number to improve over time, as HP is really still learning how to optimize its own processes for building and assembling the systems.

“We’re faster because we’re one company,” Joyce said. “We’re HP, we have global capabilities, and we’re good at building things.

In addition to App Maps that seek to make it easy for partners and customers to deploy common apps, such as SQL Server and Exchange, on VMs running on Converged System, the company is also introducing application-specific versions of the Converged System stacks. First out of the chutes is a version of the Converged System 300 pre-configured with HP’s Vertica big data analytics technology. The company believes that the pre-integrated nature of the Converged System offering will help partners who are used to its infrastructure stack make the shift into selling Big Data.

Doug Oathout, vice president of partner, alliance, and OEM marketing at HP, said HP has been “cautious” in extending its HAVEn Big Data platform out to the broader partner community, but that Vertica is an ideal firs step because it’s comparatively simple to get up and running. While other aspects of HAVEn – Hadoop and Autonomy in particular – require a fair bit of customization, configuration, and programming, Vertica can simply be brought in to process data workloads comparatively easily.

“They just suck the data into Vertica and then do the analytics a lot faster. It’s an easier first step,” Oathout said.

At the low end, the company also introduced the Converged System 100, the first Converged System offering based on one of HP’s new Moonshot servers, and introduced in partnership with Citrix. The 100 is designed for running XenDesktop virtual desktops, and targeted at fairly dense virtual desktop deployments, such as one might find at school districts.

HP is offering different models to acquire its Converged System lineup. In addition to the typical hardware purchase model, the company is offering both an operational expenditure-based rental model through HP Financial Services with easy options for expandability, as well as what HP calls Flexible Capacity, a pay-for-what-you-use contractual model.

Joyce said that third model, which has been in play in Europe with service provider customers for some time but is just now being brought to market more broadly, is likely to be a growing way that HP sells its Converged System products.

“We expect a lot of our larger customers will find this the easiest way to add more capacity to their data center very quickly,” he said.

New HP Enterprise Group boss Bill Veghte highlighted Flexible Capacity as particularly important for the company, as it “puts our infrastructure behind [customers’] firewalls, but does it in a variable and OpEx way.”

The company has some 200 customers in Europe already using the Flexible Capacity contract, largely second- or third-tier regional or national service providers.

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