In interviews, Kristi Browder, Encompass president, and David Parsons, HP's vice president of enterprise marketing, spelled out the ways and means the two groups will cooperate. "HP was a sponsor in the past," said Browder. "Now HP is a partner."
Browder noted that Parsons had sent invitations to all HP user groups aimed at developing a close cooperative exchange and partnership with the firm. She said Encompass welcomed the offer, because the user group believes the partnership represents "the best technical exchange" of information. Encompass agreed to participate in the company's HP Technology Forum, scheduled to take place in New Orleans on September 12-15.
The key selling point has been HP's promise to carry out important internal training for its employees with Encompass members permitted to attend some of these sessions to give them a jump on using new HP products and services. "We want to take our full armament and share it," said Parsons.
He explained that in addition to user groups, HP will use the Forum to inform its partner community--systems integrators, value-added resellers, independent software vendors, and HP certified professionals--of new products and developments at HP. Parsons said HP has taken a "bottoms up" approach in sessions for the event, noting that HP users were presented with a "very open call for papers."
Sessions at the Forum will range widely from printer issues to hands-on software and hardware measures. For instance, Browder, who is director of Information Technology at Silicon Labs, said she is likely to be more interested in HP's new AMD Opteron dual-core processors because of their power in engineering tasks. Of broader interest to the attendees--she is expecting at least 4,000 to attend--will likely be migration strategies of users moving to Itanium-based configurations.
"Itanium migration will likely be the hottest topic," she said, observing that many IT shops are faced with the often-daunting task of moving operating systems like OpenVMS, Linux, UNIX, and Windows from older hardware platforms to 64-bit Itanium configurations.
But users are balking, and there will be HP specialists to help them migrate. Encompass' origins are traced back to Digital Equipment Corp.'s DECUS users group, which later moved when Compaq acquired Digital and, again, when HP acquired Compaq. Users of the 64-bit Alpha computer, initially developed at Digital, are being encouraged to move to HP Itaniums, for instance. "A lot of Alpha customers (are) out there," said Browder. "(Many) of them still believe the Alpha was the best chip ever made."
In addition to migration issues, Browder said there will be important sessions on utility computing and cost containment as well as consolidation. She added that the current upturn in the economy is raising morale in IT circles. "But we're still a cost center," she said.
Parsons said the whole new approach of encouraging technology exposure and exchange by HP should facilitate training of users in the hands-on environment of the meeting. With most of HP's profits coming from its printers unit, planning for containing printing costs in enterprises is another important session.
Keynote presentations at the Forum will be delivered by Ann Livermore, executive vice president of HP's Technology Solutions Group, and Shane Robison, executive vice president and chief strategy and technology officer.
Parsons said HP will continue to support other HP users groups. He added that HP considers the independent Interex HP users group to be valuable and that the firm will support its meetings.