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HP’s hidden data centre appliance business

01 Jul 2012

When HP says ‘appliance’ it’s talking a much wider definition than most, as Sean Mitchell found out recently.

When hearing the word appliance in IT, many might think of a 1U high device from a security vendor like Dell SonicWALL or WatchGuard. But, at HP there’s an entire division producing what they call appliances, but with a much wider definition.

It started two years ago when HP and Microsoft ploughed US$500 million into a joint venture, sitting within HP, called I2A — ‘infrastructure to appliances’. Although Rodd Jefferson, who leads I2A in the South Pacific, prefers to call it HP’s appliance division.

The thinking

A few years back HP was demonstrating its performance optimised data centre (POD) solution. It was a massive shipping container which contained a fully functional datacentre, including HP servers, networking, storage, power equipment and so on.

The solution made sense in emergency situations or even as a modular way of quickly growing datacentre capacity. But the key advantage of this type of thinking, according to HP, is that each and every component has been designed from the ground up to work together, making it the ultimate in optimisation.

While the POD wasn’t a product from the I2A division, it’s a great example of the type of thinking driving the division.

Why bother?

This converged modular approach isn’t much cheaper than buying the individual hardware components — the savings come in terms of speed to deploy, and the fact it’s already pre-configured and expertly optimised.

That’s why Microsoft is part of the venture. Together, HP and Microsoft have developed unique software tools to optimise and deploy these beasts at lightning speed. They even claim you can deploy an enterprise private cloud solution in just five days, with a single product and single price.

The division produces a number of converged solutions with different types of applications pre-configured, including models focused separately on SharePoint, database consolidation, data warehousing and messaging.

One can’t help but wonder if this big block style of modular data centre construction is a response from HP to CIOs becoming used to flexibility and scalability of cloud based solutions. If one can quickly switch on 50 extra servers in the cloud, why can’t we do that in our own data centre?