HP: Has the inside track with strongest portfolio

HP clearly does not intend to let Cisco usurp its position in the data center.

Company: HP BladeSystem Matrix 2-1 Has the inside track with the most comprehensive data center portfolio

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HP clearly does not intend to let Cisco usurp its position in the data center.

After Cisco unveiled its Unified Computing System (UCS), HP quickly countered with BladeSystem Matrix, which it calls "a plug-in adaptive infrastructure" for managing physical and virtual data center resources. BladeSystem Matrix is the first big thunderclap resulting from a three-year development program, says Jim Ganthier, vice president of marketing for infrastructure, software and blades. (Read an exclusive review of the BladeSystem Matrix.)

First came HP's c-Class server blades, introduced in 2006, which now boast nearly 60% market share. Then over the next two years came Virtual Connect, a virtualized interconnection for those blades; Virtual Connect Flex-10 Ethernet, a module for distributing the capacity of a 10Gigabit Ethernet over four connections; and Insight Dynamics - VSE, a systems manager for physical and virtual servers

Besides these elements, BladeSystem Matrix includes HP StorageWorks' arrays and Fibre Channel interconnects. HP has also added security blades to its ProCurve switches, a clear shot across the bow aimed at Cisco.

"A lot of companies will look at the data center as expertise in networking, compute or storage and may build a loose federation or confederation of multiple partners to try pulling all the resources together," says Ganthier, clearly alluding to Cisco and its UCS strategy. "What makes us different … is that we take a systematic view in the data center. We have everything in the HP portfolio."

Philip Buckley-Mellor, a designer with BT Vision, a London-based provider of digital TV service, likes that approach.

The company already uses most of the Matrix, excluding Insight Dynamics - VSE, which Buckley-Mellor says is the next logical step for server orchestration across a unified fabric.

"Our internal processes won't move as fast as HP is with its software, but it's nice to know it'll be there ready when we are and that we'll save a lot of time and money on management," he says.

But HP's singularity could be a bad thing for others, analysts note. "Simplicity is good, but nobody wants to be locked in to a single vendor in the data center," says Ann Skamarock, a research director at Focus Consulting.

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