UPDATED 09:00 EDT / JUNE 07 2011

HP Touts “Open” Approach to Converged Infrastructure Deployments

HP is committed to an open standards approach to converged infrastructure deployments, a stark contrast to its main competitors in the market for converged server, storage and networking systems, according to HP’s David Donatelli.

Speaking live inside theCube at HP Discover, Donatelli, HP’s Executive Vice President and General Manager of Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking (ESSN), said HP allows customers to use any combination of other vendors’ hardware and networking gear in conjunction with HP equipment (full interview below).

Other vendors – though he did not name them, Donatelli was clearly referring to networking giant Cisco Systems – push customers to use proprietary hardware in converged infrastructure deployments, inducing vendor lock-in.

“Their stacks are anyway you like it as long as its my way. That’s what we see from our competition,” Donatelli said. “We’re building to open standards. So if you look at [HP] CloudSystem as an example, we’d love it to be all HP infrastructure, certainly. But the way the software is written you can run HP and non-HP infrastructure in there.”

That strategy puts HP in a strong position, Donatelli said, as vendor lock-in is among the top customer concerns when it comes to converged infrastructures.

Donatelli’s ESSN division brought in close to $23 billion in revenue last year and is growing at an 18% year-over-year clip in 2011, he said. “That’s a way of saying customers like what we’re doing because they’re voting with their purchase decision,” Donatelli said.

While HP’s approach to converged infrastructures may be more “open” than its competitors, it would not be accurate to describe Cisco’s strategy as a closed, proprietary one, according to Wikibon’s Stuart Miniman.

For converged infrastructure deployments, Cisco actually has two partners, VCE and NetApp. Customers of VCE – which was formed by Cisco and EMC — can deploy converged infrastructures with Cisco servers and networking gear, and storage technology from EMC. With NetApp FlexPod, customers likewise use Cisco servers and networking gear, but rely on NetApp for storage.

And however you characterize its approach, HP still wants to own the entire next-generation data center and has acquired a number of best-of-breed hardware vendors to compete at every level of the converged infrastructure stack.

In April of last year, HP acquired converged voice and data networking specialist 3Com in an attempt to take on Cisco, which at the time owned close to 80% of the networking market. Since then, HP has slowly chipped away at Cisco’s dominant position, reducing Cisco’s market share to closer to 70% and becoming the only other networking vendor with double-digit market share of its own.

“When we originally did the 3Com acquisition, we called out that [the networking] market needed more competition, needed more innovation, needed more choice,” Donatelli said. “That’s a huge impact we’ve made in that market,” Donatelli said.

HP has also made a string of acquisitions to beef up its storage business in recent years, most notably snatching utility storage vendor 3Par out from under Dell last fall. HP also acquired scale-out storage specialist IBRIX in July 2009 and virtualized storage array software maker LeftHand Networks in 2008.

“In storage, if you look at out our announcements today, we believe that is the next market we’re going to start to make a major change in,” he said.

Donatelli was referring to HP’s new Converged Storage architecture, announced Monday at HP Discover. The new portfolio integrates HP Store360 scale-out software with HP BladeSystem and HP ProLiant hardware, according to the company. The goal is to help customers reduce administration costs, speed deployments, and improve energy efficiency.

He said for the last 20 years the trend has been to carve out storage from the larger server infrastructure. That is beginning to change now in part due to HP.

“Now, based on where technologies are going – big memory and everything else –actually that gate is going to swing back the other way. And we’re going to help drive that,” Donatelli said. “We’re in a great position to do it because we are in fact the largest server company in the world, and because we develop those servers and storage, we are in that perfect position to marry these two back together again.”



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