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What Ballmer and Hurd should announce this afternoon

Hyper-V not Slates please

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Microsoft and HP CEOs are making a big announcement today about a joint agreement and investment in business computing. We don't know what they are announcing, but we know what they should be.

Mark Hurd and Steve Ballmer will take questions from invited journos at a teleconference later today abbout the two companies' preparing "customers for the next generation of business computing". They'll discuss "details about the deal and the impact it will have on small and medium businesses, enterprise customers and the channel". What can it mean?

Cisco and EMC are the two big IT boys that affect both HP and Microsoft across the customer range, from SME to large enterprises, which have a strategic importance; and the common factor is VMware, server virtualisation.

EMC's VMware unit has taken a substantial lead with server virtualisation and is rapidly strengthening its IT infrastructure software offerings to build a virtual data centre operating environment in which the focus is on managing virtual servers and their virtualised network and storage resources. The actual operating systems running in the virtual machines in those servers is just a wrapper for the applications, giving them a through route to VMware ESX resources and the hardware.

Operating systems like Windows Server and the various Linux and Unix flavours are marginalised, near enough becoming software equivalents of I/O host bus adapters or RAID controllers, looking after their own little domain and passing on I/O but not of any strategic importance any more.

This is intolerable for Microsoft, threatening its entire strategic position in the data centres of customers large and small. What makes it unacceptable to HP is that Cisco has allied with EMC and its VMware unit to produce a UCS, a Unified Computing system, involving Cisco server and network hardware, EMC storage, and VMware server virtualisation. This is sold in competition against HP's servers and ProCurve networking and its storage as well.

What HP and Microsoft should announce is an alliance focussed on Hyper-V, Microsoft's server virtualisation hypervisor that competes with ESX. We could or should see Matrix server, storage and networking bundles from HP with Windows Hyper-V and Windows Server included. Their development alliance should integrate HP's server, storage and network offerings with Hyper-V along with HP's system and data centre management software, the OpenView stuff.

Microsoft should invest in Hyper-V software development to add in the upper level virtual data centre management stuff and ride along with HP to boost its data centre virtualisation credentials. Whether this is what the announcement will focus on is up for question.

It could be a slate computer/table thing but then that wouldn't impact business computing from SMEs to large enterprises, not unless you accepted a load of hyped up bull. We'll put our bet on a Matrix and Hyper-V focus. ®

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