HP adds more tools to on-demand product line

Looking to buttress its on-demand computing strategy, Hewlett-Packard this week plans to announce two OpenView management tools at a conference for users of its software products.

HP said one of the new tools can be used to measure the revenue companies lose when network or system components fail, and the other can help IT managers better pinpoint the cause of network problems. Both are due to ship next month.

The two products, which will be unveiled at the HP Software Forum 2004 conference in Montreal, support the company's on-demand strategy, said Bill Emmett, chief solutions manager for management software at HP. He added that HP officials "absolutely see an upswing in terms of interest" among IT managers in the company's on-demand approach, which is called Adaptive Enterprise.

In contrast, some HP users said they're still struggling with the complexities of implementing on-demand computing tools and questioned the immediate need for the technology.

"My major concern with HP software is the stability and expense of the products, so the ideas of Adaptive Enterprise computing don't really apply here at this point," said Greg Barnes, a manager of Unix administration at Media General. Barnes is a user of HP's OpenView Network Node Manager. "The biggest issue I have is that their NNM software is quite expensive," he said. "On-demand is a nice strategy, but not vital to us."

HP's new OpenView Business Process Insight (BPI) tool for quantifying the cost of network breakdowns also is "kind of pricey," said Thomas Reinsel, CEO of Pepperweed Consulting, a systems integrator that focuses on projects involving HP software. "So customers will want to know the justification, and that will make it a tough sell."

But Reinsel, who is treasurer of the 8,000-member OpenView Forum International user group in Chicago, added that OpenView BPI should attract plenty of interest from users, despite its price. "We have clients that need to close their accounting books and draw from 20 different applications to be accurate, so that process needs to be visualized, monitored and managed," he said.

In general, HP is continuing to develop good products for network management, Reinsel said. However, he noted that the Adaptive Enterprise strategy isn't entirely clear. "I'm still trying to understand what it means to be adaptive, and I think everybody is," he said. "The overall concept of on-demand is good, but the complexity of it creates problems."

Rich Ptak, an analyst at Ptak, Noel & Associates, said HP has moved beyond the vision stage with on-demand technology and is talking about real products. According to Ptak, HP's new Route Analytics Management System software is basically a network "supersniffer" that examines data packets in an attempt to identify irregularities.

OpenView BPI will compete with Computer Associates International's Smart Business Process Views software and products from IBM's Tivoli Software division and BMC Software, said Audrey Rasmussen, an analyst at Enterprise Management Associates.

Rasmussen cautioned, though, that despite the capabilities of tools like OpenView BPI, users still need to define each business process that they want to measure, "and that's usually a difficult thing to do."

HP Expands ProCurve Switch Line

In a separate announcement, HP will expand its ProCurve line of networking hardware today by adding 32- and 48-port Gigabit Ethernet switches as well as two new modules that can be plugged into existing devices.

Corporate users "are going to be hearing a lot more about ProCurve," said John McHugh, vice president and general manager of HP's ProCurve unit. He added that HP plans to give its switching technology a higher profile, with a focus on supporting security, mobility and convergence to IP networks.

Both of the switches are part of the ProCurve 5300xl family. The 32-port switch starts at US$4,999 and supports 28 Gigabit Ethernet connections and four ports for either fiber-optic or copper cable, HP said. The larger model has a base price of $7,499 and offers 42 Gigabit Ethernet connections and six ports for cable.

One of the new switching modules will provide Power-over-Ethernet functionality for the 5300xl devices, at a list price of $2,729. Joe Thielen, IT manager at tea maker Celestial Seasonings, a subsidiary of The Hain Celestial Group, said he's considering using the new Power-over-Ethernet module to support a voice-over-IP system that's due to be launched next month.

The deployment will serve as many as 2,000 end users, and Thielen said the combination of Power-over-Ethernet capabilities on the HP switches and the company's backup generator should keep the VoIP phones working during a power outage.

Thielen bought three ProCurve 5372 switches last year and said he's adding another one. The price of the first three switches was $30,000, considerably below what it would have cost to buy Cisco Systems hardware, according to Thielen. In addition, HP offers a lifetime warranty on its switches, he said.

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