HP-Microsoft unveils data appliances for SMBs, enterprises

Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft's partnership finally bears fruit with launch of four integrated appliances to boost data management and business intelligence, note execs who dismiss rival products.

SINGAPORE--Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard today announced a slew of products centered around data warehousing, business intelligence (BI) and enterprise messaging, which are the first fruits of a global three-year, US$250 million partnership announced last year.

According to Douglas Small, global alliances marketing director for HP's enterprise servers, storage and networking (ESSN), these appliances are the result of a close collaboration between both companies to integrate their existing product portfolios. These include Microsoft's Azure cloud computing platform and SQL server software, as well as HP's services and hardware offerings, Small said.

The two companies jointly announced the launch of the HP Business Decision appliance and HP Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) appliance during a conference call here Wednesday. The former is available from today, while EDW has been on the market since November last year, according to HP.

Elaborating, Small said while the EDW appliance is not the first of its kind in the market, it compares well with competing offerings. In particular, he described the Virtual Computing Environment (VCE) coalition's integrated datacenter VBlock offering as an "incomplete" portfolio, and Oracle's Exadata Database Machine as a "complex" deployment roadmap.

Formed in November 2009, the VCE joint venture is an initiative of EMC, VMware and Cisco Systems. The group's VBlock offering combines EMC's storage equipment, Cisco's virtualized servers and networking equipment, and VMware's virtualization technology.

According to Oracle's Web site, the Exadata Database Machine is described as "the only database machine that provides extreme performance for both data warehousing and online transaction processing applications, making it the ideal platform for consolidating onto grids or private clouds".

Taking aim at rivals
Small made effort to delineate the differences between HP-Microsoft and Oracle's offerings, saying that the EDW provides "flexibility" and allows customers to customize the appliance according to industry standards and best practices provided by HP and Microsoft. Exadata, on the other hand, is a "one-size-fits-all" alternative that might not meet customers' exact needs, he said.

He added that deploying Oracle's Exadata machines is a complex process, which will require the company's staff to visit the customer's premise to tune the database to specification.

With the EDW, tweaks to the appliance is done ahead of time, noted Doug Leland, Microsoft's general manager of product management business platform marketing, who also sat in the concall. Leland added that Oracle's database software, in terms of installation, licensing and maintenance, is "more complex and expensive" than what Microsoft has on hand with regard to its SQL Server 2010 software.

In terms of cost comparison, Small pointed out that the EDW's acquisition price is 50 percent that of the Exadata offering.

The directed swipes follow Oracle CEO Larry Ellison's jab at HP, which he said will be in its crosshairs this year: "We think IBM's hardware and software technology is quite competitive. HP's servers, on the other hand, are slow, expensive and have little or no software value-add. That makes HP extremely vulnerable to market share losses in the coming year."

Targeting SMBs, enterprises
HP-Microsoft's efforts in pushing the EDW further demonstrate that the integrated appliance and data analytics landscape is heating up.

According to Leland, the decision to throw in data warehousing and BI features into the mix--with cloud computing and virtualization hardware and software--was always on the cards.

Elaborating, the Microsoft executive said data warehousing and BI are currently in the "highest growth market" and customer demand for such products is high.

He added HP-Microsoft are no longer content to target Asian small and midsize businesses (SMBs) and hosting companies, as stated in the initial announcement. Apart from the launch of the EDW and Business Decision appliances, Leland said the upcoming HP Enterprise Database Consolidation appliance and E5000 Messaging system will be aimed at mid- to big-sized companies.

The Enterprise Database Consolidation appliance provides companies with the capability to pull together "hundreds of databases into a single, virtualized environment", according to a press statement released Wednesday. As for the Messaging system, HP said it is the industry's "first self-contained, pre-configured platform for Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 that delivers enterprise-class messaging to businesses of all sizes".

Reiterating the partnership's value propositions, Small said: "We are the first to offer integrated hardware and software appliances that include data warehousing and BI capabilities to both small companies and enterprises. And these products are optimized for our channel partners to refine and sell on, thereby building out a wider ecosystem."

"These factors are why we are confident of our partnership and are receiving very positive feedback from our customer base," he added.

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