HP forms new blade group

Hewlett-Packard (HP) announced on Monday that it has formed a new division within its Enterprise Storage and Servers Group chartered with unifying the company's blade system development efforts.

The new group, called the HP BladeSystem division, is headed by Rick Becker, a former Compaq Computer employee who previously served as vice president of operating system marketing for the Industry Standard Server Group.

Becker's new title is vice president and general manger of the BladeSystem division, where he'll coordinate the blade-related activities of approximately 1,000 HP employees, taken from HP's services, Industry Standard Servers, Open View and HP Labs divisions. Becker will report to Scott Stallard, senior vice president of HP Enterprise Storage and Servers Group.

The division is chartered with "bringing together all of the components that make up a comprehensive blade infrastructure," said Elizabeth Phillips, an HP spokeswoman.

HP expects blade systems to bring in US$500 million in revenue during its 2005 fiscal year, which begins Nov. 1, Phillips said.

Becker's group will head up the development of server, storage, networking and management software technologies for HP's blade systems, Becker said in an interview Monday. "You're going to see more and more things being branded the HP BladeSystem," he said.

Another goal is to create a common chassis, or enclosure, for HP's blade systems, Becker said. Though HP has two separate chassis designs for its blade servers, as well as a third design for its blade PC systems, the company hopes to eventually have a common chassis for its blade systems, he said.

The BladeSystem division's first order of business Monday was to announce a pair of new service offerings designed to help customers with the installation of blade systems, as well as an update to the HP Systems Insight Manager software, designed to simplify the management of blades.

The new 4.2 version of Systems Insight Manager will include software called the HP Essentials Patch and Vulnerability pack, which is based on the Radia technology that HP acquired in its February purchase of Novadigm Inc.

"This pack enables known software vulnerabilities to be automatically identified across my blade server infrastructure," Becker said.

Systems Insight Manager will also now be better integrated with virtual machine software from Microsoft and VMware, thanks to a Virtual Machine Management Pack, he said.

The new service offerings include an installation service, where HP professionals will help customers get a pilot HP blade system up and running at a cost of $1,600 for a single-day session. Customers who want HP's services to get production systems up and running will pay an hourly rate, HP said.

New blade customers may prove to be a fertile market for HP's service offerings, as users continue to complain of headaches managing and configuring blade software -- especially in heterogeneous environments.

Management software from the major blade vendors could stand improvement, said Jim Strasenburgh, vice president of systems and systems architecture with Nyfix, a trading systems provider which uses both IBM's and HP's blade systems.

"The software, I think, is often tested in vendors' labs with the software that they like or that they need to integrate with," he said. "There's a long way to go before you can click and drop (management) agents and have them come up without a lot of effort."

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