HP Australia pushes .NET

Aiming to become an architectural leader in the application development space, Hewlett-Packard is throwing its weight and investment dollars behind developing applications and infrastructure for Microsoft's .NET framework over rival platform J2EE.

Despite the company's worldwide commitment to providing and supporting applications and infrastructure solutions for both .NET and J2EE, managing principal, enterprise Microsoft practise for HP Australia, Tim Brewin says HP Australia would prefer to partner with J2EE developers here than invest in developing the infrastructure itself in-house.

"In Australia, there is a greater emphasis on Microsoft's .NET than on the Java side. There is a larger number of boutique players in the J2EE space," he said.

Michael Barnes, vice president international at analyst firm Meta Group agrees, and says the decision to concentrate on both .NET and J2EE while building its .NET capabilities puts HP in a very good position in the enterprise space.

"Java is further along," he said. "There's more potential now for HP in .NET [development], it's more immature."

Looking at it from this angle, HP is "spot on" with its decision to invest in .NET, he said.

Brewin's comments follow Microsoft and HP's joint announcement in September that they would invest $US50 million and pool their skills to develop .NET services and solutions worldwide. The initiative, which stems from a long-standing alliance between the two companies, is designed to promote, sell and help users build systems that rely on Microsoft's .NET development framework.

As part of the new arrangement, more than 5000 HP sales professionals will be trained on .NET worldwide. In addition, 3000 service professionals will become certified on .NET, while a new group of .NET solution architects will be formed within HP by the end of 2004. HP also said it would establish a worldwide sales force of systems engineers and enterprise sales staff dedicated to deploying .NET solutions.

Brewin says Australia will benefit from the investment primarily through support of its .NET capability developments and providing financial assistance for training and accrediting existing members of the Microsoft team in .NET. Australia accounts for around 2 per cent of HP's business worldwide, he said.

HP's team in Australia has been developing and deploying .NET solutions since July, Brewin said. Several team members have also been involved in .NET training in both the US and Europe over the past 12 months. Locally, 25 HP/Microsoft consultants are currently .NET capable, as are 115 in-house infrastructure developers. A total of 20 are .NET accredited. Brewin says the aim is to have all of HP's 140 Microsoft-trained employees accredited in .NET - a process which should take about six months.

Additional development and coding of .NET architecture will take place at HP's application development centre in Christchurch, New Zealand, where 60 to 80 of the 140 staff are already accredited in .NET.

As an early adopter of technology, Brewin says he expects the uptake of .NET in Australia to grow rapidly over the next 12 months, reaching a peak in June to July next year. In his opinion, this growth will be driven by organisations looking to Web-enable their current legacy systems, and wanting to "refresh" their organisations' infrastructures. For instance, IT shops which have purchased a lot of drop-in servers for their networks are now analysing the cost-effectiveness of managing these servers.

"Server consolidation is now becoming appealing, as the cost of managing these systems is becoming almost prohibitive. So there's a surge in the infrastructure business," Brewin said.

HP's global .NET strategy is expected to be officially announced in the coming weeks. In the meantime, HP Australia is already involved with a number of large accounts in several proof of concept tests of its .NET solutions, Brewin said.

"We've got the green light, it's just a matter of waiting for the ceremony," he said.