HP sells Microsoft Unified Communications to SMBs one piece at a time

Tech giant offers SharePoint, Exchange, Communications server hardware on a smaller scale

Understanding that small-to-medium-sized businesses have growing IT needs but lack enterprise-sized budgets, HP is tailoring the Microsoft Unified Communications platform to the SMB market.

HP executives unveiled a range of new server, storage and networking hardware, as well as new IT services, at an event today at their offices in Cupertino, Calif. Citing industry research that shows SMBs ready to spend on IT again, HP is building on Microsoft's Unified Communications initiative to promote improved SMB collaboration as well.

HP's offering is built around three Microsoft Unified Communications suites -- Exchange Server, SharePoint Server and Communications Server -- all, of course, they want to run on HP server, storage and networking hardware, including new networking hardware from HP's recently completed acquisition of 3Com.

"There is a course set from Microsoft where a suite of those products is coming together to run on our coverged infrastructure, which really makes a lot of sense," said Duncan Campbell, vice president of worldwide marketing in the converged infrastructure part of HP Enterprise Business. Converged Infrastructure is an HP marketing tag for its effort to sell IT systems to customers.

"Then from our standpoint, what we're finding is you need some key pieces of infrastructure," Campbell continued. "What we have had to do, though, is size up what are some kinds of logical [hardware] configurations that we would then size up and go forward with."

HP encounters some SMB customer reluctance to take on a migration to 2010 versions of Microsoft's Unified Communications software, and the hardware expenses that go with it, while the economy is only slowly coming out of the recession, he said. Also, as I've written about before. migration is an big task even in good economic times.

Understanding that, Campbell said HP is hand-holding SMB customers, taking them through just one portion of a Unified Communications and Collaboration (or UCC, HP's term) transition to make it easier to manage.

"UCC can be a pretty big, almost transformational, obstacle for customers and so you almost need to break it down into its components where customers can say 'I can execute that (part) quickly,' say to do better teleconferencing or better training, so that's what we are advocating," he said.

HP introduced a flurry of new hardware products targeted at SMBs, including the HP StorageWorks X310 Data Vault, starting at $549, a StorageWorks Network Storage System starting at $3,512 and a P2000 G3 Modular Smart Array system starting at $8,970. HP also renamed some 3Com Baseline Plus series network switches as the HP V Switch Series. In recent months, HP has also released new HP ProLiant G7 servers, running either Intel or AMD chips, boasting significantly improved power efficiency, server consolidation ratios of more than 20-to-1 and a faster return-on-investment than previous models.

AMI-Partners research released at today's event shows SMBs are ready to invest in new network infrastructure after a tough recession. While the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for overall IT spending by SMBs in the U.S. is projected to be only 3.6 percent between now and 2014, the CAGR for wireless LAN spending is 23 percent; for networking equipment 29 percent; and for network-attached storage, 30 percent, said Chad Thompson, vice president of the market strategy group at AMI.

"We hit a major reset on the CAGRs during the recession where everything came to a standstill, the refresh cycle got pushed out and all that pent-up demand was there," Thompson said. At the same time, he added, SMBs are becoming more interested in improving collaboration and communications within their IT organizations, such as with Microsoft Unified Communications, and are now more interested in investing in the infrastructure to support it.

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