Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/04/27/hp_bt_era/

HP: 'IT, as we know it, is over'

Ships same new products to prove it

By Ashlee Vance

Posted in Servers, 27th April 2007 21:27 GMT

Analysis HP this week put an end to information technology. You're now meant to slot all things IT under the Business Technology (BT) umbrella. HP's declaration does little for The Register's slogan. Thanks a lot.

So what's all this BT fuss about? Well, you wouldn't really know from the products HP released to back up the marketing.

First off, HP rolled out new reference architectures for Microsoft Exchange 2007, SAP and Oracle.

Like rivals, HP has long pushed the reference architecture idea as a way for customers to get bundles of servers and software up and running quickly. And, in fact, it has such architectures in place for Exchange, SAP and Oracle already. There are, however, some new twists.

The fresh Exchange design focuses specifically on Exchange 2007 and those customers struggling to shift over to the 64-bit software. HP has recommended hardware configurations, along with new guidelines and tools to cover Exchange roll outs spanning from 100s to 1000s of users.

Meanwhile, the latest SAP paperwork covers customers shifting from SAP R3 to mySAP and Netweaver, while the Oracle package targets customers looking to run databases on HP's new c-Class blade servers.

All of the reference architectures have more detail than in the past, since they go beyond servers to hit storage systems, networking and, in the case of Exchange, mobiles devices, HP said.

HP has also updated its so-called Shared Services line.

With Shared Services, HP more or less lets a customer become its own services provider, allocating things such as computing power, bandwidth and storage to different departments in a fluid manner. If your marketing team, for example, needs some extra hardware for a product launch, they don't have to budget for a bunch of new systems. Instead, they tap the Shared Services model to find already available kit capable of handling the temporary need.

(For the record, HP says, “IT Shared Services offer a collaborative operating model that accelerates business and IT alignment – while achieving operational efficiency, world-class cost structures and improved IT quality and responsiveness. In other words, IT acts as an internal service provider – one that essentially competes with the quality of service, cost and value that an external service provider might provide.”)

It's abstract. It feels fluffy. We know.

HP used to offer Shared Services advice and set-up help for test and dev purposes only. Now, it has extended the program to living, breathing production gear. Customers can tap HP to create virtualized, multi-vendor data centers capable of dishing out the resources described above.

Along these lines, HP has launched a shared database utility for Oracle that can ride the Shared Services bandwagon. Customers can resize databases or create new ones on-the-fly, if they're on HP's Itanium-based servers running its virtual server software.

Is BT BS?

Virtualized servers? Reference architectures? Lending a helping hand to Oracle? HP has done all this before, so how are we now in a BT instead of IT era?

Well, HP surveyed more than 100 CEOs and CIOs and found – this will shock you – that the executives expect more out of their technology. Companies want to use technology as an advantage but don't quite know how, according to HP.

HP discovered that 80 per cent of CEOs and 90 per cent of CIOs surveyed “share the goal that technology should drive business outcome.” Alas, only 35 per cent of these folks “believe that today they are successful in doing that.”

“We think we need to start measuring technology differently,” said Deborah Nelson, a SVP at HP. “We need to start measuring how technology is helping to grow company. Are we mitigating risk? Are we lowering cost? We need to think along those lines.”

According to HP, this is a trend that rivals have yet to discover.

More cynical types will suggest this is just a slight evolution in HP's data center marketing. Carly Fiorina gave us the Adaptive Enterprise. Mark Hurd gave as the Adaptive Infrastructure. And now we have the Adaptive Infrastructure with a BT wrapper.

Is this HP going against Nick Carr's oft-cited claim that IT doesn't really matter?

“Hell, yes,” Nelson said.

So, it's either that businesses are really inept at using technology or they simply don't know how to make use of the tools available. HP is banking on the latter scenario and has some new services to help.

For example, HP has rolled out a complementary program where it will visit your business and assess what state you're in with regard to the Adaptive Infrastructure. Again, HP has done this in the past, but this time it has “measurable statistics” on its side from the survey and customer case studies.

Put on your Tom Cruise costume because HP wants you to visit new “Realization Centers” as well.

The new centers have popped up in the US, France, Australia, China and Japan. Customers can visit the centers and test out various Shared Services and utility-style computing technology. “This gives customers a quick way to figure out whether a given set of technology is right for them,” HP told us.

Has HP really discovered a new trend? We're not sure. It hardly seems a secret that businesses are unsatisfied with their technology investments and rarely know how to get the most out of their gear. We thought that's how companies such as HP made lots of money.

“We are saying that business technology is an evolution from the Adaptive Enterprise, which was all about synchronizing business and IT,” Nelson said. “We are beyond that. We are to a point where technology is powering business and where we need to be held accountable at the same level as other parts of the business.”

HP's BT push may have a lot of goop hanging off it, but the overall message seems pretty sound. At least in rhetoric, HP wants to put more pressure on technology vendors to sell something of value.

You've been given a wide set of tools and now it's time to figure out if any of this stuff works. If not, HP will gladly listen to your complaints . . . apparently. ®