HP gave the IT industry a lot to consider today with the release of its strategy to transform the data center into a more integrated, adaptable entity. But in talking to officials in charge of the program, it becomes clear that the process they have in mind is neither overly complicated nor burdensome.
The problem as HP sees it is that decades of piecemeal deployments and IT mergers have left most large firms, and many of the not-so-large, with collections of largely static data centers that are expensive to maintain and cannot provide the services their organizations need on a timely basis.
To that end, HP has launched a set of hardware, software and services aimed not only at consolidating equipment to reduce energy and maintenance costs, but to quickly adapt to evolving business environments, such as the collaborative and mobile applications in vogue today. Key elements of the package include consulting and design services for critical facilities development, consolidation and virtualization, as well as the HP Insight Dynamics capacity planning software and the HP Operations Orchestration management stack. The new ProLiant DL785 G5 server, an eight-socket machine based on quad-core Opterons, lays the foundation for the new infrastructure.
Grand visions of the future data center are commonplace these days, most involving massive amounts of restructuring, data migration and, well, investment in time, money and resources. This morning, I had a chance to talk with John Bennett, worldwide director of Data Center Transformation Solutions at HP, who didn't deny that HP's strategy marks a major shift in current thinking, but he added that the transformation process is not necessarily a disruptive one.
"What we're talking about is taking a transformative approach by defining the next-generation data center that's appropriate for business, and then linking together a series of projects and initiatives over time, each of which will have their own goals, but will also work within the future datacenter strategy," he said.
Too often, Bennett said, data center refurbishments are done to meet short-term goals, generally centered on the often contradictory aims of expanding business services, controlling costs or mitigating risks. HP's new approach would first bring in consulting and design teams to assess critical facilities needs and lay out a basic approach. Once that is done, smaller project can be implemented using any combination of the hardware, software and hosted services that HP has to offer.
"Rather than think of it as one massive project, we'll develop a strategic view first, and then use individual projects over time to build out the next-generation data center," Bennett said. "You'll achieve your tactical objectives on particular projects, but you'll also lay out the foundation for years of compounded returns."
It sounds like a rational approach. About the only flaw in the plan that I can see is a lack of network support. With server, storage and virtualization as part of the mix, I was a bit surprised when Bennett said he hasn't had many dealings with HP's networking unit. It seems unlikely that a series of ProCurve switches couldn't be brought in should the need arise, although that need could be substantial given the level of virtualization and consolidation that uses are likely to require. It might make sense to make networking a more integral part of the strategy.