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HP to throw Matrix tech beyond x64 blades

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Like the rest of the IT industry, Hewlett-Packard was apparently expecting Cisco Systems and EMC to announce their Acadia joint venture and Vblock virtualized data center infrastructure on Wednesday.

Hence the timing of a hodge-podge of system announcements that HP is stacking up against the Vblock stacks and whatever integrated systems Oracle and Sun Microsystems might cook up if the European Commission ever allows the Sun acquisition to go through.

HP is taking a two-prong attack today, saying that the automation and management technologies that it originally developed for its x64-based BladeSystem and packaged up as the BladeSystem Matrix and its Matrix Orchestration Environment has been expanded to support Integrity blade servers. That means the Matrix boxes can support HP-UX and OpenVMS operating systems and their workloads and are not just restricted to x64-based ProLiant blades and their Windows and Linux operating systems.

The Integrity blades also support Linux and Windows, of course, as well as the NonStop environment for fault tolerant clusters, and presumably these can also be controlled by the Matrix environment.

El Reg badgered Gary Thome, chief strategist and architect for the BladeSystem line at HP, about bringing HP's rack servers and larger SMP systems into the Matrix fold, as well as extending the VirtualConnect I/O virtualization that has been a key reason why companies have deployed HP blades, to rack and big iron boxes. But thus far, HP is mum on whatever prospects this might hold. Not every customer wants blade servers - they might have more peripheral expansion and local storage needs than blades can deliver - so Matrix most definitely should not be restricted to blades.

It is interesting to note, of course, that the Vblock virtualized data center pods that Cisco and EMC launched yesterday come in both blade and rack versions, using converged server and storage network fabrics. Cisco doesn't sell big iron SMP boxes - at least not yet - but you can rest assured that if Cisco does, there will be a Vblock based on it.

What is perplexing about the announcements from HP today is that the company has introduced even more terminology and product naming conventions. Instead of the old Adaptive Infrastructure initiative from a few years ago, we now have the Converged Infrastructure Architecture, which HP pitches as a "roadmap for CIOs to thrive in unpredictability". (Cisco and EMC are selling three different configurations of virtualized infrastructure with feeds and speeds and prices.)

Instead of the Matrix Operating Environment (which is itself a hodge-podge of stuff), HP is now rolling out something called the Infrastructure Operating Environment, which doesn't appear to be a new product so much as a brand to slap onto HP's Insight Dynamics, Insight Control, and Business Technology Optimization tools. Pity the sales rep trying to explain this stuff, and how it might - or might not - relate to one of HP's five strategic operating system platforms.

If HP has simplified IT, it has made its product line and sales pitch unnecessarily complex. The Matrix launch in April was a step in the right direction, in terms of integrating lots of things and simplifying the sales pitch. People don't buy architectures - they buy products.

Today, HP is announcing the grown-up version of the VirtualConnect virtual I/O for the BladeSystem machines, which it is calling FlexFabric. It is a mix of VirtualConnect switches for blades and ProCurve switches for racks and big SMP boxes, that will allow HP shops to wire their servers once and, through the magic of virtual Ethernet port aggregation (VEPA), allow workloads to move around the network of servers and have their network and storage connections follow them.

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