‘Catch-up’ Hewlett-Packard takes virtualisation to SMEs

A new, simpler product will bring the technology to smaller organisations, says vendor

Hewlett-Packard is going after the virtualisation market in the small-to-medium enterprise space by offering a program to assess how IT systems in smaller organisations might benefit from the technology.

HP is offering a Virtualisation Assessment Service that diagnoses a company’s computer infrastructure and then draws up an assessment of it and a proposal about how virtualisation could be implemented.

Virtualisation technology is designed to manage a company’s IT infrastructure holistically. Servers can be subdivided into multiple “virtual machines” that can simultaneously run different applications. Server workload can be more easily moved from one physical or virtual machine to another as needed.

Most virtualisation projects are done in large enterprises, where a company like HP would assign its own dedicated sales force, consultants and engineers to a project. But HP plans to work through channel partners to cater to smaller businesses, says Nick van der Zweep, its director of virtualisation.

“These (customers) maybe haven’t done a virtualisation project and so they need some assistance to do the first one,” van der Zweep says. “Each of our channel partners tend to be regional and we need to help them get up to speed on virtualisation.”

Virtualisation is a new area of competition in the IT industry as vendors tout it as a way to control costs, server sprawl and energy usage — and to position themselves against rivals.

IBM claims the high ground in this battle, because it has been building virtualisation capabilities into its mainframe computers for more than 30 years.

“HP is clearly in catch-up mode,” says Kevin Leahy, director of virtualisation for IBM.

VMware, the leading seller of virtualisation software, uses an IBM textbook on virtualisation from the 1970s to help it sell virtualisation to its customers, Leahy says.

HP’s van der Zweep acknowledges IBM’s pioneering work on the technology but says IBM has been slow to move beyond virtualising the mainframe.

“IBM put a lot of technology onto their mainframes to make them shareable,” he says. “But we at HP brought virtualisation out for our Unix (server) systems and mid-range systems well before IBM took it off the mainframe.”

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