HP aims downmarket to pitch virtualization

HP is offering a service to diagnose business IT systems to determine how they might use virtualization technology.

Hewlett-Packard (HP) is going after the virtualization market in the small-to-medium business space by offering a program to assess how an IT system might benefit from the technology.

Beginning Feb. 1, HP is offering a Virtualization Assessment Service that diagnoses a company's computer infrastructure and then draws up an assessment of it and proposal about how virtualization could be implemented, the company said Wednesday.

Virtualization technology is designed to manage a company's IT infrastructure holistically. Servers can be subdivided into multiple "virtual machines" that can simultaneously run different applications. Server workload can be more easily moved from one physical or virtual machine to another as needed.

Most virtualization projects are done in large enterprises, where a company like HP would assign its own dedicated sales force, consultants and engineers to a project. But HP plans to work through channel partners to cater to smaller businesses, said Nick van der Zweep, director of virtualization for HP.

"The channels who cover more of our midmarket, small-to-medium businesses, these (customers) maybe haven't done a virtualization project and so they need some assistance to do the first one," van der Zweep said. "Each of our channel partners tend to be regional and we need to help them get up to speed on virtualization."

He identified Avent, Arrow Electronics and Agilysys as HP partners who'll be offering the assessment service, with more to follow later.

Virtualization is a new area of competition in the technology industry as vendors tout it as a way to control costs, server sprawl and energy usage --- and to position themselves against rivals.

IBM claims the high ground in this rivalry, because it has been building virtualization capabilities into its mainframe computers for more than 30 years.

"HP is clearly in catch-up mode," said Kevin Leahy, director of virtualization for IBM.

VMware, the leading seller of virtualization software, uses an IBM textbook on virtualization from the 1970's in selling virtualization to its customers, he added.

HP's van der Zweep acknowledged IBM's pioneering the technology but says IBM was slow to move beyond the mainframe.

"IBM put a lot of technology onto their mainframes to make them shareable," he said. "But we at HP brought virtualization out for our Unix (server) systems and midrange systems well before IBM took it off the mainframe."

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