HP, Microsoft Team-Up Yields New Appliances

Partnership between Redmond and Palo Alto targets IT pros looking to reduce complexity and deployment times.
Microsoft and HP's year-old alliance is now producing purpose-built hardware that the two companies hope will put them on an even footing with so-called stack vendors like IBM and Oracle, whose broad portfolios enable them to roll out tightly bundled systems that feature their own iron, operating environments and applications.

HP and Microsoft this week introduced the HP Business Decision appliance, which contains Microsoft Excel and SharePoint 2010 running Windows Server 2008. The $28,000 system also offers 96 GB of storage and supports up to 1,000 users.

In March, HP and Microsoft will ship the HP E5000 Messaging System for Microsoft Exchange Server 2010. The ProLiant-based system comes pre-configured with either a 1 or 2.5 gigabyte mailbox, and can scale to support mailboxes "of any size" and starts at $36,000, according to HP.

The companies also recently introduced the HP Enterprise Data Warehouse Solution for Microsoft SQL Server. The system, at about $2 million or less, combines HP ProLiant servers and StorageWorks arrays with the regular or parallel version of SQL Server 2008 R2.

Microsoft and HP are hoping that their combined offerings will appeal to IT departments that require systems that can be stood up quickly and maintained with minimal labor. The deal is clearly meant to help Microsoft and HP compete more effectively with Oracle and IBM, both of which have bolstered their ability to offer fully integrated business engines by spending billions on acquiring companies that make the piece parts.

"Customers are looking to significantly reduce implementation and decision times," said Mark Potter, senior VP and general manager for HP's Industry Standard Servers and Software unit. "With our converged application appliances, HP and Microsoft enable customers to shorten the time required to deliver information, which helps reduce risk and cost."

Microsoft's senior VP for Server and Tools, Ted Kummert, called time and complexity IT professionals' "biggest foes."

Microsoft and HP first announced their alliance in January, 2010. At the time, officials from the companies rejected the notion that their plan to invest $250 million in jointly developed systems was nothing more than a glorified bundling arrangement.

"This is the deepest level of collaboration and integration work we've done that I'm aware of," former HP CEO Mark Hurd said at the time. Hurd, now a co-president at Oracle, noted the companies will dedicate 11,000 service reps to the alliance. Those foot soldiers are responsible for pretesting, preloading, and servicing products sold under the partnership, which also has its own dedicated sales force.

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