Just finished a day at HP's advanced data centre – er, centre – at Isle d'Abeau, near Lyon. It was useful to catch-up with HP's thinking with respect to data centres, and a chance to talk to one of its key customers, agri-business company Syngenta. The big story for HP, now the world's biggest server maker, is in fact not hardware but services, so this was where the Silicon Valley stalwart put its emphasis.
HP is keen to be perceived as a services company, a continuation of its big launch of services back in 2001, when it made its first bid to become a major competitor to IBM. Yes, that's 2001: Rome wasn't built...
To that end, as well as the jaw-jaw, we also got a tour of the data centre, a large modern facility that's sold as Tier 3+ -- which makes it almost immune to disruptions. After admission via a biometric security gate, we saw lots of shiny water pipes, generators, batteries, and even the winking lights of a server or two -- through thick plate glass, natch. You can't help but be impressed at the massiveness and complexity of it all -- which is of course the point.
So HP's broad message is that data centres have become hugely complex mechanisms, especially with virtualisation, with legislative demands, and the costs and constraints of power and cooling – added to which are the environmental issues to which all companies need to pay more than lip service. So, if you're a large enterprise, why not outsource it all to HP?
The message was reinforced by the perfectly on-message (from an HP perspective and for no sinister reason that I could detect) presentation from Syngenta's Mike Meysner, who described in detail how his company decided that it didn't want to be in the business of owning servers and managing a large IT infrastructure plant, and so outsourced the lot to HP.
What HP didn't say was interesting too. HP doesn't want to admit that the Oracle-Sun tie-up could have adverse effects on the sales of hardware to underpin Oracle's eponymous database. European marketing manager Lucio Furlani did admit, however, that “things can change – in the longer run the industry will go through more consolidation especially towards the end of 2009.”
It's also the case that this nirvana of outsourced services (how many times have we heard that pitched over the last 30 years?) needs a greater understanding between a number of key players within the enterprise, not least facilities and IT managers, each of whom will have to cede territory as part of the process of making IT more efficient and so help drive down costs. It won't be easy.
But it is the case, I feel, that HP has placed itself well to attract what looks likely to become a growing number of enterprises moving in this direction, now that the big IT bang of the 1980s and 1990s that distributed technology evenly across the organisation has started to reverse itself. HP does face some formidable competition in the shape, inter alia, of Oracle and IBM, so while it won't be plain sailing, the market is large enough for big pickings to be had.