New HP converged systems target big data, virtualization markets

Ed Scannell

Hoping to grab a bigger slice of the big data and virtualization markets, Hewlett-Packard Co. delivered four converged systems that target large data centers as well as small enterprises.

Meanwhile, some IT pros find a new class of hyper-converged infrastructure systems from smaller vendors to be a better bet.

Two of HP's four new integrated offerings, which are all members of HP's Converged Systems lineup, are built to increase the availability of virtual environments. A third is designed to support hosted desktops and will be driven by the company's Moonshot server, and the fourth is built to supplement larger organizations' existing data warehouses by scaling analytics at higher speeds.

HP customers' data capacities have grown at more than 800%, and those IT shops are having trouble dealing with that exponential growth as they add new apps to meet line-of-business needs, said Paul Miller, vice president of Converged Appliances, Systems and Solutions for HP's Enterprise Group.

What HP hopes will make the new offerings more attractive to corporate users is the improved speed with which they can order and deploy the systems. According to Miller, once users decide on what models they want, they can order, receive and implement those systems in as little as 20 days. HP also offers a proactive care program that keeps patches, software and firmware up to date, Miller said.

Some users say they appreciate HP's focus on ease of delivery and deployment but believe that most IT shops, particularly those that have already moved toward a cloud strategy, will be reluctant to spend additional money on a converged systems strategy.

"Most companies have so much legacy hardware that just going to the cloud is a big step," said Mike Drips, a project manager with Houston-based Wipro, which specializes in IT Services, technology consulting and system integration with larger IT organizations. "So even when companies like HP, Cisco and Oracle come by with converged systems that help with transitioning to the cloud, [users] will ask, 'How will buying your hardware make it easier to get to the cloud?'"

But because they are both modular and feature tight integration among their major components, allowing them to scale computing resources more easily, the new systems can provide a more convenient on-ramp to the cloud, Miller said. (See story on HP's cloud announcements.)

While companies like HP and others promote delivery of systems that can be smoothly integrated with existing infrastructure and platforms, Drips says he would have to more closely examine what other technical services would be necessary to ensure that level of integration and support.

"It's nice to talk about delivery and deployment of systems in 20 days but are they also delivering data from legacy systems and training for IT staffs? Ordering a converged system is not like ordering a pizza for delivery," Drips said.

Hyper-converged infrastructure systems enter the fray

Another barrier to the more traditional converged systems and infrastructure offerings of large vendors that typically combine servers and SAN is a new class of so-called hyper-converged systems.

Converged systems/infrastructure vendors typically package servers and storage into single, pre-qualified bundles based on mainstream gear. Hyper-converged systems, on the other hand, take a building-block approach to server and storage, combining the two in to a single box, that can then be joined in to a federated cluster of compute and IO resources.

The latest convert to hyper-convergence is the city of Arvada, Colo., which two months ago deployed SimpliVity OmniCube for a single application. Already, the city may move its Oracle Financials and Citrix XenApp environments to the new platform, away from their Cisco UCS and Dell Compellent SAN environment.

"[SimpliVity] turned out to be significantly different, not just a better version of what we already have," he said. "We'll see how it goes, but as of now, our plan is by 2015 not to have Cisco or Compellent in our environment," said Ron Czarnecki, CIO for the city.

Last year, Arvada began looking for a new server and storage platform to rehome its police management system, and got bids for converged infrastructure offerings from IBM, VCE, HP, Hitachi Data Systems, Cisco and NetApp, as well as from hyper-converged startups Nutanix and SimpliVity. The name-brand converged infrastructure offerings left a lot to be desired.

"All of the big systems, those systems weren't any better than what we already had -- in some cases, they were actually more complex," Czarnecki said.

SimpliVity offers benefits like built-in deduplication and replication, plus an all-inclusive pricing model. They bought four units, dubbed OmniCubes, to start -- two for the primary data center and two for its disaster recovery site.

Right off the bat, a couple of things surprised Czarnecki. For one, the company's claim that the system would be up and running in a day was true.

"Vendors tell you it will take a day and it ends up taking three or four, so you're trained not to believe them," he said.

HP's new Converged Systems

In general, converged systems from companies such as HP and IBM provide the benefit of being tightly integrated yet modular, so they can plug into your existing infrastructure.

The two HP systems released today are aimed at virtual environments. The ConvergedSystem 300 and 700 for Vertica are targeted at small and large shops, respectively. The 300 is for companies looking to deploy between 50 and 300 virtual machines, while the 700 is built to handle data centers requiring from 700 VMs up to more 1,000 VMs.

The HP ConvergedSystem 100, which is intended primarily for remote or mobile users and is a joint development project involving HP Moonshot, AMD and Citrix, offers "PC on a chip" resources, according to Miller, particularly for those who require business graphics and higher performance for other multimedia applications.

Miller noted the ConvergedSystem 100 is the first PC-on-a-chip architecture housed in a cartridge that fits inside Moonshot's chassis and is aimed at hosted desktop environments.

"This will provide a cartridge-based server environment specifically for hosted desktops, which is less expensive than some approaches that forces you to deal with the whole server or layering on virtualization that you then have to carve up," Miller said. "This way each user more easily can get their own PC on a chip."

Baseline pricing for ConvergedSystem 300 started at $136,000, with the ConvergedSystem 100 for hosted desktops priced at $137,999 for 180 users.

Alex Barrett, editor in chief of Modern Infrastructure, contributed to this report.

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