A month prior to its annual customer event – HP Discover 2015 (June 2-4, Las Vegas) – and just six months before it kicks the kids (printers and PCs) out the door as it tries to reinvent itself as Big Blue II, HP is taking another shot at Cisco with a new and enhanced set of purpose-built Compute platforms and solutions targeted at data-intensive workloads. Designed to optimize capacity and performance scalability, flexibility and cost efficiency, and address data center space, power and cooling challenges, the Apollo 2000, Big Data Reference Architecture, Integrity Superdome X and ProLiant DL580 Gen9 are available now; the Apollo 4000 family, ProLiant DL560 Gen9 and ProLiant BL660c Gen9 are expected to ship in early June.
Vineeth Ram, VP, Product Marketing, HP Servers, told IT Trends & Analysis that what HP is announcing is “a range of optimized compute capabilites to help companies manage all kinds of data and monetize value from them.” It’s a whole range of platforms and solutions to provide significant value to customers,” in terms of scalability, performance and efficiency. “That’s what we call optimized compute.”
Using Gartner forecasts, HP stated that 4.9 billion connected “things” will be in use in 2015, up 30% from 2014 and will reach 25 billion by 2020, leading to an exponential increase in the amount of data, and the emergence of new technologies and architectures – from open source data analytics and database platforms to in-memory databases – intended to derive value from data and deliver business outcomes. It said the new Compute platforms have been tailored to meet the specific requirements of these data-intensive workloads, purpose-built for a range of emerging technologies and applications including mass content storage, block and file storage, unstructured and real-time analytics, as well as simple and transactional databases.
“The ever-increasing volume, velocity and variety of data have stretched traditional server technologies beyond their limits – it needs a set of purpose-built compute platforms specifically designed to extract the maximum value of the data,” said Alain Andreoli, SVP and GM, Servers Business Unit, HP, in a prepared statement. “HP is innovating the designs of its broad Compute portfolio to align it to specific workload needs in order to help customers deliver the most impactful business outcomes by using data in ways that was impossible in the past.”
While HP saw a 5% revenue decline for its last quarter (down 2% in constant currency), the enterprise group turned in solid 9% growth in constant currency, led by its Intel server business, along with “improved performance in business critical systems”, said Chairman, President and CEO Meg Whitman during the earnings call at the end of February. The company also trumpeted its first-place finish in the Q4 2014 server market, with more than a 10% lead in revenue share over second-place Dell (26.8% vs 16.7%).
Overall server shipments and sales increased in the fourth quarter, racking up 2.7 million units and $13.98 billion (up 4.8% and 2.2%, respectively, according to Gartner). IDC put the Q4 market at $14.5 billion, up 1.9% Y-o-Y, with shipments up 2.8% to 2.5 million units.
If HP is showing its heels to its competitors in the x86 and blade server markets (as well as in the cloud infrastructure segment), its performance in the integrated platforms/integrated infrastructure segments is good, but pales in comparison with Oracle, VCE and Cisco. According to IDC, while small, both segments are significantly outperforming the overall server market. In the last 8 quarters revenues for integrated platforms, AKA engineered systems have climbed to $917 million (Q4 14), while integrated infrastructure systems sales – AKA modular or converged systems – have almost tripled to $1.8 billion.
According to a new blog from Enterprise Strategy Group, senior IT professionals feel apprehensive about converged and hyper-converged solutions. ‘Based on our research, senior IT professionals see ICP solutions as tactical, not strategic,’ noted ESG Senior Analyst Terri McClure. ‘And while a number of organizations have adopted ICP, they’re primarily using ICP for specific workloads to get a clean measurement of the value the solution delivered.’
As important as the purpose-built announcements are, Ram said HP is not taking a cookie-cutter approach to servers because that approach will not work. “We see a whole range of uses cases, a whole range of customer scenarios… there is no one-size fits all.”
Some customers want pre-packaged, optimized solutions and others just want the best possible components. “We’re seeing there’s a need for both, and both areas are important to us.”
Looking at the announcements from a scale-up versus scale-out perspective, Ram believes scale-up falls into the nice-to-have but not game-changing category. The scale-out capabilities provide an opportunity for customers to get started quickly and with low risk. There is a lot more potential upside there, and “will be exciting”, he said.