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Taneja Blog

Taneja Blog / Data Center Systems / Software Defined/Virtualized Infrastructure

HP the innovation company has resurfaced, and they have a message for you: hardware still matters.

I recently had the chance at VMware PEX to spend some extended in-depth time with HP in a bootcamp session intended for their field and channel. I've blogged a bit already on a couple of observations stemming from this, but there is at least one other observation to be had. I've been led from a couple of observations to this hypothesis: HP is finally crafting a strategic vision into execution and tangible product, and looks to be poised to take back the title of innovator as they show the market that yes, hardware still matters.

Let me just break this down into a few key observations:

1. Convergence surfaced throughout the portfolio. For the first time in a long time I saw products throughout the portfolio - including networking - and they all consistently demonstrated convergence elements. Networking seemed to resurface with renewed vigor. This in itself is notable, as networking has been missing on my radar for a few years (other than integrated components like VirtualConnect and FlexFabric). Most interesting was the MSR30 and MSR50 systems that enable branch-in-a-box type deployments with blade embedded virtualization, even including a Riverbed Steelhead offering.

2. HP convergence is turning into more than just hardware - it is also innovative integration. HP has upped the ante in a far too under recognized way; perhaps under recognized because it is pretty subtle. HP is looking for integration that goes beyond hardware convergence. I already mentioned the virtualization enabled MSRs, but an absolutely compelling demonstration was the integration of VirtualConnect management into the vSphere administrative interface. VirtualConnect as many already know manages the dynamic provisioning of vNICs and vHBAs to blades in a C7000 BladeSystem. These ports are dynamically defined and connected to blades over the C7000's backplane and connectivity modules. With this coming integration, administrators will have some pretty mind blowing agility in dynamically defining their hardware connectivity in relation to what they're doing in the virtual infrastructure, effectively enabling a dynamically modifiable pseudo-backplane across hypervisors and between hypervisors and infrastructure systems like storage and the core network.

3. This combination is greater than the sum of its parts. As we start to look at what that last innovation does - VirtualConnect management within the virtualization layer - it starts to clearly define a new area of responsibility and capability within the data center. It enables server-based networking to an entirely new degree, yet simultaneously creates clear delineation between core networking and server-based networking for organizations with different functional teams in each area. Now combine this with a few other way under marketed capabilities, and some interesting thoughts ensue. Example one, HP Cloud Maps stand to automate the storage, network, and server configuration of entire sets of infrastructure. Example two, AutoFlex inside of CloudSystem is a demonstration of automated elasticity that can make physical infrastructure scale up and down as demands change. These types of integrations demonstrate an alignment between infrastructure systems and virtualization that can give even the emerging HyperConvergence players (Nutanix, SimpliVity, and Scale Computing) a run for their money. HP looks to be moving down a path that can weave multiple systems together (storage, networking, compute) into what for all practical purposes acts like a data center fabric and that serves up adjustable and adaptable amounts of these things as IT services. So why is that greater than the sum of the parts?

When you begin to think about a data center fabric, it is interesting to think about what services might be better off there. You could see some cases where it might be better to move specialized functionality out of the hypervisor for acceleration and performance, especially if those services can be equally agile in hardware. The HyperConvergence guys for example get this, and leverage scalable accelerated storage and data movement functions and high levels of automation. While VMware is pushing toward engulfing more functionality in the hypervisor for extreme agility via a software-defined data center (and including storage), it looks clear that HP hasn't abandoned the infrastructure to a future of commoditization.

There's an ideological battle brewing here, and HP is offering pretty compelling evidence that there's more to compute than software. The innovation is back, and for HP, it's clear they're going to enhance customer value through infrastructure. Since the 3PAR acquisition, I've never doubted HP storage had a bright future. But for the first time in a while, I see evidence across the entire systems portfolio that HP is going somewhere truly new, and it looks to have the potential of changing IT for the better. This may be dependent on sustainable execution on HP's part, and how well they can polish the resulting product that comes from these integrations, but for that, only time will tell. For now, I'm excited about their future.

  • Premiered: 03/01/13
  • Author: Taneja Group
Topic(s): Cloud Virtualization HP VMWare convergence hyperconvergence Networking Storage Compute Management

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