HP launches vendor alliance for integrating apps, network gear

Partners include Microsoft, Avaya and McAfee

Hewlett-Packard Co.'s ProCurve networking division today announced an ambitious alliance with enterprise application vendors to optimize their software as it runs over ProCurve switches and other networking gear.

The program, called Open Network Ecosystem (ONE), relies on a new ONE Services zl Module, which is blade hardware for two HP switch families that will go on sale Feb. 1 for $5,995, said Matthew Zenner, worldwide director of data center networking for ProCurve. The applications of the various partners are tested and certified to interoperate with the new blade module, and the module will help eliminate the need for redundant gear, thereby reducing costs, he said.

ONE will help "remove complexity with application deployment," Zenner said.

The various applications in the ONE alliance come from Microsoft Corp. for network access protection, Avaya Inc. for IP telephony and unified communications, McAfee Inc. for security, F5 Networks for load balancing, and Riverbed Technology for WAN optimization and acceleration, Zenner said. Leaders from the various alliance partners joined HP in a webinar today on the announcement.

HP also announced new Data Center Connection Manager software for streamlining operations in data centers by offering automated provisioning of servers and network gear for both traditional and virtual environments. It will be available in the second quarter for $27,100. A new DCM Controller will sell for $31,999, although no shipping date was announced.

In addition, HP announced five new ProCurve 6600 series switches for edge of network locations outside of data centers, which could include buildings on a campus outside of a data center building. Pricing will run from $4,699 to $12,499, depending on configuration, and the switches will ship at various times in the next several months, starting in March. HP said the 6600 series employs a reversible airflow system and the ability to turn off unused ports for better energy management.

Because the ONE alliance program is new, it's hard to estimate how much integration of applications with networking hardware HP can accomplish, said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at Yankee Group Inc. in Boston.

"But if they pull that integration off, they are a viable competitor to Cisco," Kerravala said, referring to networking market leader Cisco Systems Inc. HP is second in sales of networking equipment to business customers. Globally, Cisco has an installed base of about 60% of all switching ports, while HP has about 10%. "No one else has come that close to Cisco in a long time," he noted.

Kerravala said the ONE vision is comparable to Cisco's Integrated Services Router concept, which is designed to help IT managers provision a network with a variety of applications running on all types of networking gear. The chief difference, he said, is that Cisco has built its own application components, while HP will rely on third parties in the alliance.

"Success or failure will depend on whether HP really has the best of breed partner in every case," he added. "The ultimate measure of success is if they can take a chunk of flesh out of Cisco."

Tim Ryan, network manager for the City College of San Francisco, said the ONE approach is being tested with the blade module on the nine-campus network, which serves 3,000 workers and some of the school's 100,000 students. He said that it's too early to determine how cost-effective it will prove to be but that prior to the ONE announcement, there was no alternative to purchasing separate applications and services, as well as operating system licenses and support contracts at a great cost.

"We were not able to leverage the installed ProCurve infrastructure to achieve an economy of scale," he said.

Ryan said HP ProCurve switches have been in use at the college since 2000 and have proved reliable and cost-effective. One feature he especially likes is the unlimited lifetime warranty on the gear. In all, the college has about 160 ProCurve switches in place, with 13,500 ports. He predicted that ONE "will make HP more competitive with Cisco."

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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