Will HP finally buy its own ProCurve network products?

by Guy J Kewney | posted on 27 January 2009

"This is a big deal for us," said HP Procurve European VP, Martin O'Brien at the French chateau of Montvillargenne - announcing an apparently laughable attack on Cisco in Cisco's prime area of dominance. HP itself resells Cisco data centre solutions. Why does ProCurve think it can break into this market?

The deal is: a federation of data centre networking providers, from Avaya to f5 and from Microsoft to McAfee, all basing a sales strategy around ProCurve switches.

The consortium is called ProCurve One and before you can hope to understand what that is, you probably need to read HP's own publicity about "adaptive networks" - a strategy it first announced nearly two years ago.

Today's announcement adds new ProCurve products, but also, offers a catalogue of pre-approved "best of breed" applications to run on them. As the marketing announcement puts it:

Using HP ProCurve’s open networks platform as its foundation, HP ProCurve ONE allows customers to securely integrate a wide choice of best-in-class network applications and services from alliance partners that integrate directly with HP ProCurve infrastructure.

HP ProCurve ONE partner applications are rigorously tested and certified to ensure interoperability with the new HP ProCurve ONE Services zl Module. The module is an HP blade for the HP ProCurve Switch 5400zl and 8200zl series that consolidates many partner applications onto one common platform, thereby eliminating redundant operational costs while optimising rack space.

In addition to Microsoft, Avaya, McAfee, F5 and Riverbed, six technology companies – Aastra, AirTight Networks, Ekahau, InMon, .vantronix and VBrick – are members of HP ProCurve ONE and providing applications for the HP ProCurve ONE Services zl Module.
These partners are collaborating with HP ProCurve to help customers strengthen security, reduce complexity of network management, increase network and data center performance, deploy new VoIP services and improve manageability.

What wasn't said, during the satellite-linked presentations in Palo Alto, California, was probably the bit that matters most. That is the fact that if you go to HP - the computer company - and ask for a data centre, then HP would sell you a Cisco solution.

That's the bit that may be starting to change. According to some of the ProCurve partners here in France, HP itself is now (unofficially) part of ProCurve One, and will - if asked! - sell you ProCurve One products.

"Our main problem over the next six months," said partner Martyn Lambert at Avaya, "is probably going to be how we sell this concept to customers. If HP pushes it, then it will go."

Lambert is enthusiastic about the product but  - like all the other partners - is well aware that the competitor can outspend all of them. Cisco doesn't just lead the market for data centre equipment, it utterly dominates it.

The story from HP ProCurve is simple: "We're outgrowing the market." It claims to have 30% year on year growth and to be expanding in areas where Cisco is marking time. The reason for good growth (said O'Brien) is the "best of breed" approach to data centre applications.

"If you buy from a single supplier who provides everything, you are bound to have to make compromises," said O'Brien. "From ProCurve One suppliers, you can pick the solutions you actually need. But because we have pre-approved all applications, you don't have the problem of managing the integration. It will all co-exist."

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