HP readies for assault on service providers

Now that Hewlett-Packard's merger with Compaq is a done deal, the company is moving forward rapidly to build on its already considerable business with service providers. The mantra for HP's network and service provider division is: standards and Linux. The company hopes to profit from the trend to drive proprietary hardware and software out of carrier networks and to convince service providers that hardened Linux platforms are just what they need for their next-generation networks. Recently Tim Greene had a conversation with Sebastiano Tevarotto, HP's vice president and general manager of the company's Network and Service Provider business unit.

Q: What is your vision for the service provider unit and its business partners?It is for an open standards network that will enable services to be quickly deployed, and hence provisioned to customers, and managed at marginal operating cost. Those services will be developed by a variety of entities, not just by the service providers or HP. Openness becomes of incredible value because service providers will not be able, as they were in the past with voice services, to control everything. They need to create this open entrance where any clever company that has a service that delivers value to customers can transition in, pay a price and serve some customers.

Q: How big is HP with service providers?Some of our OpenCall signaling middleware has more than 3,600 installations around the world. People don't know that we are there. A significant number of prepaid wireless customers are served over the prepaid OpenCall solution. We are kind of uniquely positioned because of the IT and telco knowledge to solve today's and tomorrow's needs of the service providers. We have more than 1,000 engineers who work on developing these technologies, in [research and development]. And we have a critical mass of services people who can join forces with partners to take solutions directly to the customers.

Q: What important products have resulted from the merger?With OpenView, we were going into the area of network management.

By bringing together [Compaq's Telecommunications Management Information Platform] and OpenView, we are years ahead of any competitor in bringing a service offering that allows us to manage IT and telecom networks together. Also, the new Opencall service-delivery platform is an area where both companies were going.

With the service delivery platform, you create a level of abstraction that separates the complexity of the network from the customer-facing part of the activity. Hence, you can introduce the service, and then the service-delivery platform takes the responsibility to interface with all of the network elements. The result is a significant cost reduction because you don't develop things several times, and more importantly, a dramatic reduction in time-to-market for the services because that platform is standards-based. Once the services you have comply with the standards, you are guaranteed that those will run on top of your platform.

Q: Who do you regard now as your competitors?There is not a competitor now. We are pushing open standards, so the competitor in that area is Sun Solaris and the proprietary nature of Sun Solaris. The industry is moving into Linux, so we are definitely carrying the flag of developing carrier-grade Linux systems and using Linux extensively. Both companies were investing in Linux. We've merged the two efforts and accelerated things. In the carrier grade, HP was slightly ahead.

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