HP launches virtualization product blitz

Desktop, storage, server wares announced

Hewlett-Packard Co. has announced a broad sweep of new virtualization products along with survey results, claiming that most businesses aren't making the most of what the technology has to offer.

The products include a ProLiant blade server "built from the ground up" for virtualization, four thin-client computers for virtualizing desktops, new equipment for virtualizing storage and some consulting services.

Virtualization is most widely used today for consolidating servers in data centers, which can help cut costs and reduce energy use. HP is trying to sell the technology as a way to make businesses more competitive, by freeing up IT resources that can be redeployed to create new services.

"Today, many companies are focused only on how virtualization reduces cost; we believe it enables much more," said Ann Livermore, head of HP's technology solutions group, in a video on HP's Web site.

On the desktop, HP is trying to push virtualization beyond call centers and into offices, for use by business analysts, engineers and even financial traders. The company announced four thin-client PCs that will ship in October, two with its ThinConnect operating system, one with Windows CE and one with Windows XP Embedded.

It also announced that its Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) software and blade PCs now support Citrix Systems Inc.'s XenDesktop software, which was announced in May. VDI lets a company run multiple desktop operating system environments on a server and is geared toward "basic productivity workers." HP also offers blade PCs, which use a dedicated server blade for each desktop environment, for workers who need more compute power.

The thin clients cost about $199 each when bought in volume, and each blade PC works out to about $1,000, said Tad Bodeman, director of product marketing for HP's client virtualization business.

"All of these cost the same or a bit more to buy than a desktop PC, but very quickly you'll have a return on the investment," Bodeman said. The savings come from lower management costs for centrally managed virtual desktops, a longer life cycle for the thin-client hardware -- up to seven years compared to five years for a standard desktop -- and fewer incidents of lost or stolen data because the data is stored on a central server. Thin clients also consume less energy -- around 25 watts compared to 100 watts or more for a desktop PC.

For the data center, HP said its new BL495c blade server is built for virtualization because it has 16 DIMM slots for a possible 128GB of memory, up to eight network connections per blade and two solid-state disk drives.

"When you're consolidating underutilized servers into a single platform, which is what many customers are doing with virtualization, that platform has to be very expandable," said Mark Potter, general manager of HP's BladeSystem group. "Memory and I/O are the things that tend to get bottlenecked first."

The server comes with one or two quad-core Opteron processors from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and hypervisor software from VMware Inc., Citrix or Microsoft Corp. Pricing starts at $2,449 for a single processor, 4GB of memory and the hypervisor.

Also new is StorageWorks 4400 Scaleable NAS File Services, which can be combined with HP's 4400 Enterprise Virtual Array to create a virtual storage pool that can be shared among servers connected to the system, according to HP.

"All the servers will have read/write access to all the storage, so an administrator can create pools of storage resources that can be mapped more easily to where they need to be," Potter said.

The system comes with 4.8TB of storage, expandable to 96TB. It is priced from $94,270 for the Windows File Services version and $97,630 for the Linux File Services version.

HP also announced enhancements to its HP-UX operating system, some "fixed-price" consulting services and software updates for managing virtual environments. More information about the new consulting services as well as the other announcements are available on HP's Web site.

Almost nine out of 10 companies are doing some sort of virtualization today, but most are in the early stages, according to an HP-commissioned survey of 150 decision-makers at mostly large companies. Only about one-third of them see virtualization as a way to accelerate growth or to become more competitive, HP said.

HP is among a glut of companies that will make virtualization announcements ahead of VMware's annual VMworld conference in Las Vegas, which starts on Sept. 15. BMC Software Inc. announced new management software Tuesday, and on the same day Surgient Inc. announced self-service, policy-based tools to let employees configure their own virtual computing infrastructure.

Microsoft, Sun Microsystems Inc. and Neterion Technologies are among the other companies expected to announce products before VMworld hogs the spotlight two weeks from now.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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