by Kevin Fogarty

HP Makes Bid for Early Leadership in Microsoft-VMware Hype Season

Sep 03, 20083 mins

Dinging customers for not understanding virtualization is not the most effective way to push iron, even if virtualization is what customers want the iron for in the first place.

A week or two ago I promised to help point out some of the more pointless publicity surrounding Microsoft and VMware’s respective virtualization blowouts this month.

At the time I figured that would mostly mean just sifting through a heavier-than-usual volume of Microsoft FUD in search of anything new or original. As it turns out, early offenders are actually third parties elbowing each other for some of the attention Microsoft and VMware are sucking up for themselves.

HP, for example, managed to score at least three stories and a couple of blog entries following from press announcements claiming that it is teaching business executives to evaluate virtualization in business terms rather than technical.

That’s nice, except I’ve never talked to a business-unit manager, or even a relatively high-level technical manager, who didn’t think of virtualization primarily in business terms. The advantages of virtualization less to do with technical elegance than with getting the work of a dozen virtual servers in the space, though not the cost, of just one.

Virtualization specialists think of VMware, Hyper-V, Xen and all the rest of the hypervisors and virtual-app products in terms of their technical merits, pitfalls and manageability. Business people could care less except where the technical merits impact either service levels or acquisition-and-maintenance budgets.

The data point HP was using made it much clearer what they were after, though. According to an HP study, 86 percent of IT organizations polled will have virtualized at least 25 percent of their infrastructure by 2010, but that many would virtualize as much as 75 percent by then.

So the argument wasn’t that businesses don’t understand the business benefit of virtualization. It’s that businesses aren’t taking sufficient advantage of virtualization if they’re not virtualizing their whole infrastructures according to HP’s schedule.

True, many companies could make much more efficient use of their IT resources with more extensive, more sophisticated virtual infrastructures. It’s my assumption that most companies will virtualize far more than 25 percent of their infrastructures, and profit thereby. But that doesn’t mean their budgets or service levels would be best served by virtualizing more than a quarter of their whole IT operation, by 2010 or any other time.

Either way, HP has the answerfor all those short-sighted executives who don’t know how to take full advantage of their virtual infrastructures: buy more hardware.

Among its gems is a blade server specifically designed for use as a platform for virtualization. Of course, there are lots of ways to optimize the design of a server based on commodity components to make it operate most effectively under a given set of circumstances.

But what you’d do, or why you would need to do anything, to optimize a small form-factor server designed to be used in high-density computing environments just to make it more appropriate for virtualization isn’t clear to me.

  • [More on this next week; HP reps say there is indeed a difference that results in performance benefits obvious even to people who aren’t high-density computing specialists; I’ll let you know how well they make the case.]

    HP isn’t the first hardware company to try to hang its sales to the rising profile of virtualization. Dell and IBM have done it as well.

    HP is the most aggressive this week about taking advantage of the rising virtualization-event hype, though, and making claims using data and use-cases that have little, if anything, to do with what their customers need.