Like most things, IT concepts tend to be cyclical. Many years ago, Windows and Linux on x86 hardware changed the course of purpose-built solutions, moving customers to what became industry standard servers. Before them, customers bought proprietary hardware with proprietary storage and proprietary software. Now, the complexities of deploying industry standard servers are moving customers back to optimized, purpose-built solutions for particular problems to streamline deployment time and optimize performance.
IT professionals agree that anything done in a purpose-built converged system can also be accomplished with off-the-shelf components, but HP says customers want converged systems for two critical reasons – speed and agility. HP’s converged solutions are targeted to help customers deploying specific software packages get a very tailored hardware solution to run their software package on a very short timeline with high performance.
Last month, Tom Joyce, senior vice president and general manager of Converged Systems, stopped by the bloggers lounge at HP Discover to talk with us about future directions in converged systems. Convergence is a topic that HP has been talking about for the last 5 years, but HP is also realigning its business practices behind the converged system, announcing in April that it was forming the Converged Systems Group.
So, what makes a converged system? According to Joyce, Converged Solutions include four components:
- Integrated Management
HP is seeing a lot of opportunity in the mid-market around converged systems. A lot of mid-market customers still have silos where virtualization can really benefit them, but the typical mid-market customers do not have the benefit of a lot of staffing according to Joyce, so HP is working to integrate solutions to make the solution easier to use, manage and maintain. And while some converged systems are created around single products, some of HP’s portfolio has been created around customer choice – with HP VirtualSystem being a prime example. HP has created the VirtualSystem platform to accommodate multiple hypervisors, allowing the customer to choose what’s best for their business.
A lot of discussion in the lounge centered around what makes converged solutions different from off-the-shelf components – and the consensus from both bloggers and Joyce is that the integrated management component is critical to the converged solution. In HP’s case its Insight Control and Insight Management are the key tools in the portfolio today, but Joyce says the management solutions are definitely going towards ‘a much richer experience.’
HP’s Factory Express seems to be a competitive differentiator when it comes to converged solutions, as well. Joyce talked with the bloggers about First Data Corporation, a financial services company that writes software for banking. First Data utilized HP and specifically the Factory Express capabilities to create a package system that includes a customer load of software for First Data’s customers. Rather than the company having to become infrastructure experts and order, assemble and then ship and deliver infrastructure solutions to their customers, they work with HP to create a converged solution with their custom software to deliver to customers, relying on HP to assemble the solution.
Much of the focus with creating converged systems within HP is centered around an optimized configuration of hardware and software around a software solution – whether its Microsoft Exchange, a hypervisor, or a high-end solution like SAP HANA. These optimized solutions are created with the use-case in mind. They also come with some sort of enabling software from HP to streamline the deployment process and decrease the time of deployment for the customer.
When talking about the support organization at HP, Joyce admitted there is some work to be done there. From personal experiences with converged solutions, HP’s support group can be cumbersome to navigate – resulting in the customer being bounced from group to group before finding the proper resource to fix a solution. This is disheartening to a customer who has been presented a sales presentation of a unified solution only to find its supported piecemeal.