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Bob Evans
Bob Evans

Global CIO: HP & Microsoft Launch Broad Fleet Of Application Appliances

The new HP-branded optimized systems are aimed at BI, data warehousing, Exchange, and database consolidation, with one priced at almost $2 million.

Capitalizing on last year's blockbuster $250 million pledge to develop new products together, HP and Microsoft today have introduced an impressive line of jointly engineered purpose-built systems called Converged Application Appliances and designed to help CIOs reduce cost, complexity, and risk.

While the joint HP-Microsoft rollout was anticipated—about four months ago, we discussed in broad strokes HP's plans for jumping into the optimized-systems business—the range and performance levels of the new machines are clear indications that HP and Microsoft intend to become leading players in this burgeoning field.

Saying that their new products are intended to displace traditional (translation: slow, inflexible, and expensive) systems, HP and Microsoft said customers are fed up with "highly customized deployments that take too long" to generate value and with "proprietary stacks of infrastructure and applications that are inherently rigid and slow to change."

The new "converged application appliances" are targeted at data-intensive applications such as business intelligence and data warehousing, HP and Microsoft are also rolling out later this year (under the HP name, as with all the others) a "Database Consolidation Appliance" that will use virtualization technology to help customers "hundreds" of databases into a single private-cloud database.

HP vice-president Paul Miller said in a phone conversation yesterday that CIOs today are offered a disjointed smattering of appliances: "There are a lot of point solutions and single-purpose appliances for things like security gateways, email filtering, or virtualization, and there are a few data-warehouse appliances," he said.

"But no one so far has taken a comprehensive look at solving business problems by standing-up a set of solutions for productivity improvements and that reduce complexity. And we think that the industry's #1 infrastructure company [that would be HP] and #1 provider of productivity tools and business apps [that would be Microsoft] are the only ones who could do this: the industry's first complete portfolio of converged appliances," Miller said.

Added Microsoft general manager Doug Leland, "In terms of customer benefits, we're expanding their ability to handle a breadth of complex workloads and offer simpler data management, and we're looking at delivering flexibility and choice for any transaction volume and any database capacity, as opposed to the one-size-fits-all approach that some of the others in the market are taking."

Leland added that the new HP appliances—optimized to run with a wide range of Microsoft software—are intended to deliver to customers "an immediate reduction in cost, complexity, and risk. They're pretuned, preconfigured, and preselected to work together to decrease that cost and risk," Leland said.

"And, they offer a very rapid time to solution: what used to take months and months is now a matter of days or maybe weeks to deliver that value to the customer."

HP and Microsoft believe that those factors outlined by HP's Miller and Microsoft's Leland will allow the new appliances to stand apart in what is rapidly becoming a very crowded field as IBM, Oracle, HP with other systems, EMC, SAP, and a several other big IT vendors are all responding to customer enthusiasm for these highly engineered and integrated systems that are helping get IT departments get beyond long, expensive, and frustrating systems-integration business and into the realm of rapidly delivered and easy to use business solutions.

In my recent column called Global CIO: The Top 10 CIO Issues For 2011", I included optimized systems as a top priority for CIOs because the innovative technologies offer not only cost savings and faster time to value on the back end, but are also delivering unprecedented levels of performance and scalability due to the optimization efforts by both hardware and software engineers.

That high-end performance was certainly an attribute flagged by HP's Miller as he described the new HP Enterprise Data Warehouse Appliance, saying it can scale from handling tens of terabytes for a department or mid-size business to more than 500 terabytes in large corporations.

In addition, the joint announcement from HP and Microsoft noted that their new data warehouse appliance delivers striking new levels of performance:

"Up to 200 times faster queries and 10 times the scalability of traditional SQL Server deployments."

I had wondered if by sticking closely with the term "appliance" instead of the term made popular by Oracle and IBM—"optimized systems"—perhaps HP was trying to draw a distinction between two different types of machines, with the "appliance" label possibly signifying smaller and lighter-weight devices while "optimized systems" would encompass the upper end of the market with very high-performance machines ranging up to $1million and beyond.

But that's clearly not the case because here's what HP and Microsoft had to say about the pricing for the HP Enterprise Data Warehouse Appliance: for "less than $2 million," customers get not only the machine itself but also site assessment, installation, startup, plus 3 years of HP 24/7 hardware and software support services. It's available now.

On the BI side, the HP Business Decision Appliance carries a price tag of $28,000, which includes 3 years of the HP 24/7 support. The press release said HP and Microsoft pledge that with this appliance, they have "greatly reduced the time and effort it takes for IT to configure, deploy, and manage a comprehensive business-intelligence solution."

Also—and I'm not sure this next one is going to win any "name of the year" prizes—the HP E5000 Messaging System for Microsoft Exchange Server (breathe!) can be deployed "in as little as a few hours" and is priced at $36,000 with 3 years of the HP 24/7 support.

A smaller version of the Enterprise Data Warehouse Appliance aimed at mid-sized companies is scheduled to be out in June, and the Database Consolidation Appliance should be ready sometime in the second half of the year, HP said.

Leland and Miller said the appliances have gained significant interest among retailers, financial-services companies, and telcos, and mentioned Aflac and Red Wing Shoe Company among early adopters.


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GlobalCIO Bob Evans is senior VP and director of InformationWeek's Global CIO unit.

To find out more about Bob Evans, please visit his page.

For more Global CIO perspectives, check out Global CIO,
or write to Bob at [email protected].

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