HP tunes blades for Oracle apps

Pits Matrix against Ellison stack

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

No matter who gets the top job at Hewlett-Packard – and whether or not former HP top exec Mark Hurd gets to keep his job as co-president at Oracle – these two companies are going to have to partner and compete. HP is the dominant supplier of servers in the world, and Oracle is the dominant supplier of databases and middleware and the number two provider of enterprise applications.

So it is no surprise that on Monday, Larry Ellison, Oracle's co-founder and chief executive officer, will be joined on the stage during the opening keynote at the OpenWorld extravaganza in San Francisco by Ann Livermore, executive vice president of HP's Enterprise Business unit to talk about transforming IT systems to cloudy infrastructure. Livermore – who is in the running to replace Hurd in at least one of his former jobs as president, CEO, and chairman of HP – will no doubt us the words "agility" and "converged infrastructure" about a zillion times, and stress the importance of the HP-Oracle partnership. And, yes, Ellison will it the Oracle-HP partnership too.

What Livermore will be on hand to introduce at the Oracle event is a version of the BladeSystem Matrix integrated (and sometimes virtualized) server stack, specifically preconfigured and tuned to come right out of HP's Houston, Texas factories with an eagerness to run Oracle's PeopleSoft and E-Business Suite ERP applications and the Oracle Fusion middleware stack for companies that roll their own apps.

HP launched the BladeSystem Matrix back in April 2009, in the wake of Cisco Systems' entry in the converged server and networking racket with its "California" Unified Computing System blade servers and integrated virtualization, provisioning, and system and application management tools. In a funny bummer for HP, the Matrix machines were announced on the same day that Oracle announced its would snap up Sun Microsystems for $7.4bn, pretty much stepping on the innovative system that HP had created by mashing up systems software from all over the company as well as some special sauces that had been cooking in HP Labs.

The whole Matrix shebang has been billed as a push-button data center, with a self-service catalog for provisioning physical and virtual servers, running on x64-based ProLiant blades and sporting the usual hypvervisors and operating systems (Windows and Linux). The Matrix Operating Environment can also automatically allocate storage and networking for servers and provision applications onto the infrastructure. Last November, HP extended the Matrix setup to include Itanium-based Integrity blade servers, which means that HP-UX, NonStop, and OpenVMS applications can be added to Matrix infrastructure. HP rolled out Matrix templates for Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, SharePoint Server 2007, and SQL Server 2008 as well as Oracle's Database 11g and Real Application Clusters extensions and SAP's NetWeaver middleware last fall.

At OpenWorld on Monday, HP is rolling out what it is calling the HP Private Cloud Solutions for Oracle Applications, which is just a confusing way of saying BladeSystem Matrix for Oracle apps. Instead of calling them Matrix application templates, as it has in the past, now HP is calling them "cloud maps," which is still nothing more than a template for grabbing a set of code and puking it out onto a physical or virtual server. (The first job the new HP CEO has is to smack the marketing people who keep naming and renaming HP's products, getting more and more nebulous with time).

The first Matrix private cloud to come out of HP is based loosely on the turnkey CloudStart iron HP launched three weeks ago at the VMworld extravaganza and will be configured for Oracle's PeopleSoft HRM and ERP suites. It will be comprised of ProLiant blade servers running Linux, according to Mike Crowsen, vice president of the Oracle alliance at HP, who laughed when El Reg suggested that his job just got a whole lot harder. The Matrix-PeopleSoft setup is based on the configurations that customers are actually requesting in HP's Factory Express build-to-order setup in the Houston factory, and represents what the majority of PeopleSoft customers deploying on HP iron are asking for. Crowsen says that 45 per cent of PeopleSoft customers install on HP iron, so HP has a very good sense what PeopleSoft customers want.

HP, for some stupid reason, is not providing the specific feeds and speeds of the Matrix for PeopleSoft setup, but Crowsen says it includes midrange StorageWorks EVA disk arrays, integrated switching, and all the Matrix systems software (including the service designer and self-service portal that all cloudy infrastructure tools need). Interestingly, the PeopleSoft applications and databases are being provisioned on physical, rather than virtual servers, says Crowsen, since "customers are not really excited about virtualization their production databases yet."

The ProLiant blades all boot from the EVA storage area network, and the stack has been certified to run Red Hat Enterprise Linux or Oracle Enterprise Linux. Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server has not been certified on this Matrix for PeopleSoft setup because, as Crowsen puts it, no one has asked for it yet. The basic setup, whatever it is, will sell for under $700,000 and is available now on a worldwide basis. It does not include the PeopleSoft applications, but just the templates for them. You owe Oracle dough for the apps.

HP has two other Matrix private clouds in the works, both of which should ship before the end of the year. The first is a Matrix setup all tuned to run Oracle's E-Business Suite of ERP applications, which will initially deploy on HP-UX on Integrity blades inside the Matrix system but will eventually be offered with a Linux flavor (presumably on the cheaper ProLiant blades). The other is a Fusion middleware setup, back-ended with Oracle 11g databases running on HP-UX blades and with Fusion middleware running on Linux blades.

The next obvious thing to do is create a Windows-based Matrix setup for hosting Oracle's Siebel CRM applications (since Windows has always been the preferred platform for Siebel), but Crowsen would not confirm this was in HP's plans. And obviously, it makes sense to have Matrix private clouds set up to run Microsoft middleware and applications and SAP applications. But don't expect HP to mention that at Oracle OpenWorld. ®

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