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HP, Microsoft form $250m IT tag team

Frontline battle with Sunacle, CiscoEMCVMware

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Dave Donatelli, who left EMC to take over what is now HP's Enterprise Storage, Servers, and Networking group (ProCurve networking was bolted on late last year, and 3Com will end up here, too, once that acquisition closes), piped up and said that HP and Microsoft would be increasing their go-to-market investments by a factor of ten, and both companies would be adding dedicated sales people whose sole livelihood depends on selling Frontline integrated stacks.

About 32,000 of the combined HP-Microsoft channel partners will be able to sell Frontline products when they become available, according to Donatelli. And they will have access to collateral marketing materials, promotion money, and pretested and prepackaged Windows stacks that Hurd said "would simplify life enormously" for channel partners.

While this is all great, what channel partners probably need more is a few more points of margin so they can stay in business. If the Cisco-EMC-VMware triumvirate and the Oracle-Sun duopoly offer better margins to channel partners, which one do you think partners will push?

So what does the Frontline partnership mean to the long-standing partnership between HP and Oracle? Both HP and EMC were snuggling up to Oracle at OpenWorld last October, but HP was dissed when Oracle moved its Exadata data warehousing (and now online transaction processing) cluster from HP ProLiant iron to Sun blades. "I think Oracle will continue to be a very important partner of ours," said Hurd," but that's not what I am here today to talk about."

And what about Microsoft, which has partnerships with other server makers, like Dell and IBM?

"We don't have a lot going on with IBM, so let me set the record straight on that," Ballmer said while laughing. And Ballmer continued to chuckle as he said: "We're going to work with guys that HP competes with, and HP is going to work with guys that we compete with."

So Microsoft and HP are having an open marriage, it would seem. But Big Blue is sleeping out on the enterprise couch, and if Microsoft ever stops using Power chips in its Xbox game consoles, IBM might find its bags on the street.

While the Frontline announcement was way short on details - and sorry, Mark, but it was really just a press release contrary to what you say until we see what the products are and what they cost and they are available to buy - it looks like HP and Microsoft are going to work on building cloud-style infrastructure that can deploy Windows applications and be consumed either as a service through Microsoft Azure (which Ballmer said is hosted on "a lot of HP hardware") or through corporate data centers through private clouds.

Donatelli said that in the near future "servers will not look like they do today" and that HP and Microsoft were designing what he called a "next generation mainframe" that was optimized for cloud computing and that cost a lot less to buy and operate than current infrastructure.

That's a great vision. In fact, it is the same one Oracle and VMware have. The thing is, VMware and its Vblock partners are already pushing product, and Oracle will move fast once it has its hands firmly wrapped around Sun to get integrated stacks out the door.

Dell and IBM: Your moves. Be clever. ®

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