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Archive for March, 2011

I have a new home!

I’ve decided to shed the limitations of a free hosting service and actually pay for hosting services. While I wish I could just grab a domain with “Network Therapy” in the title and be done with it, it is already taken. Evidently there are legitimate uses of Network Therapy and they have nothing to do with 1’s and 0’s. Therefore, I decided to make the jump to an entirely new domain name. I figure that it is better to do it now while my post count is relatively low. From now on, you can find me at www.insearchoftech.com. I can do a bit more now that I am paying for it, so I hope to be a bit more frequent. I am by no means a website whiz kid, so I opted to keep using WordPress.

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HP Networking – Part 2(More vision…)

If you haven’t read my first post on HP Networking, you can read it here. I covered the marketing aspect of it. In this second post, I wanted to talk about the technical approach that HP is taking. However, there was so much information that was mentioned prior to the technical networking talk, that I couldn’t cover it all in the first post. Therefore, this post will be more marketing type content. Sorry for those of you who hate marketing, but at least I have no slide deck to torture you with.

Let me give you a rundown of the 4 different speakers we listened to from HP. I probably should have covered this in the first post. I mention these people just to let you know how much information we had to consume within the several hours HP presented to us. If you want to see the presentations I saw, you can watch the videos here. The HP videos are the last 2 in the list. It’s 3 hours worth of content from HP alone!

Over the course of several hours with HP during Tech Field Day 5, there were 4 different speakers. Frances Guida led off with the overall HP strategy. Jeff DiCorpo gave a very interesting talk on HP’s de-duplication approach in respect to storage. I purposely avoided talking about that because there were storage professionals within the Tech Field Day delegation and they are far more capable of writing about that than I am as a non-storage guy. Jay Mellman kicked off the networking marketing pitch. Finally, Jeff Kabul, spent the remainder of the time in a technical discussion on HP networking. Jeff is a technical marketing engineer with more emphasis on the technical than the marketing(his words).

Now that you have an idea for the presenter lineup, let me pick up where I left off in my first post…….

Throughout the presentations from HP, you REALLY get the feeling that they only look at Cisco as their competition. Everything was framed in the context of pulling share away from Cisco, or doing things better than Cisco. In light of that, it was no surprise when Jay Mellman mentioned that all of HP’s 6 main data centers were Cisco free. I think they are really proud of that fact, and maybe they should be. Is there any better way to show your customers, or potential customers, that you are serious about your networking products than to “eat your own dog food” in your production environment?

Then, it got REALLY interesting. Jay alluded to a recent Gartner report entitled “Debunking the Myth of the Single-Vendor Network” in which Gartner states that it is cheaper to have more than one vendor supply your network gear. Jay mentioned that Cisco got people very lazy about correct network design and that by bringing in a second vendor, it forces an organization to do proper network design. I am going to assume that was a reference to some of the proprietary things Cisco has developed like EIGRP and HSRP.

One of the delegates, Tom Hollingsworth(@networkingnerd), asked Jay what the difference was between proper network design and lazy network design. Tom mentioned that ProCurve had historically been edge centric and that perhaps HP felt that switching decisions should be made closer to the edge as opposed to Cisco who puts more emphasis on the core. Jay stated that Cisco does that because they make a lot more money selling core switches than they do edge switches. According to Jay, when it comes to Cisco pushing core switching, quote: “It is as much a business model as it is an architectural model.

HP believes they have a better approach to architecture than Cisco. Maybe they feel that way when compared to the other networking vendors, but again, I get the feeling they are only interested in being better than Cisco. They also believe people are going to do more evaluation than they have in the past.

HP realizes they aren’t going to hit a bunch of home runs and get forklift upgrades from Cisco to HP. They are just looking to get a foot in the door. Maybe they will win a few deals outright, but for the most part, they will have to squeeze their way into Cisco dominated networks piece by piece. BMW was a good example for them. What started out as a small wireless project in a few dealerships blew up into HP getting a piece of the BMW enterprise infrastructure. HP isn’t the only vendor to work the “foot in the door” angle. I’ve talked to several networking vendors in the past year and they are all trying this approach. Get a box or two in the datacenter or on the edge and slowly grow their presence over time. To me, that’s the best strategy. Let an organization get comfortable with you. Then, when there’s a problem and a vendor like Cisco cannot solve it, you get to ride in on the white horse and save the day with your product that CAN solve the problem.

With all of this talk of HP believing they did things better than Cisco, an opportunity to ask HP about voice, or  unified communications came up and I took it. I asked Jay if HP was going to do anything in the realm of voice. Granted, they have an existing product from 3Com entitled VCX, but in light of HP’s increasing relationship with Microsoft around unified communications, I didn’t have a good feel for what HP was going to do. The voice/UC offering from Cisco is pretty solid from a stability and feature standpoint, so it would be harder for HP to chip away at that sector than it would be in the realm of switching.

HP has decided they don’t want to be in the voice business long term. Jay indicated that with unified communications(ie voice), it is, and I quote: “bifurcating into applications and infrastructure”. Kudos to Jay for using an obscure word like “bifurcating“.  To be quite honest, I had to look it up. 🙂 It means “the splitting of a main body into two parts”. HP has taken the approach that voice is nothing more than an application. They want to focus on the infrastructure that provides transport for that voice traffic, but they don’t want to be involved in developing the platforms that manage/create the voice traffic. Their goal is to identify areas like voice that they consider applications and work with third parties. While I tend to agree that it makes more sense to focus on the infrastructure from an HP networking perspective, it seems to me that HP is one of those companies that could actually put out a voice solution that would work. They have all of the pieces to make it happen. Networking, server hardware, applications expertise, etc. Perhaps to do that, it would take several years of development on their part and they obviously want to remained focused on other things.

I have covered everything(minus the storage de-duplication talk) up to the technical discussion from HP. In the next post, I will jump into the nerdier things. There was so much meaty information from the discussions leading up to the technical presentation that I thought I would re-hash the points that I thought were the most interesting. The more time I spend in the industry, the more interested I get in the non-technical things when it comes to the different vendors out there. That’s not to say that I don’t like the very technical things, because I do. I just think that if you are going to devote a substantial amount of time to learning a vendor’s technology(and we all do), you need to make sure that technology is going to be around for more than a year or two. Understanding where the focus of company XYZ is will go a long way in determining what you need to focus on and what you need to let go the way of the dinosaur.

So……next post on HP will be more technically focused and this time I mean it. 🙂

*****Disclaimer: As a delegate for Tech Field Day 5, my flight, food, lodging and transportation expenses were paid for in part by HP. I am under no obligation to write anything regarding HP either good or bad. Anything I choose to write are my opinions, and mine alone. **********

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HP Networking – The Vision(As I Understand It)

March 4, 2011 3 comments

As part of Tech Field Day 5, I got a chance to sit in on multiple briefings from HP. I was very interested to hear about their particular product set and how it fits within the data center. The following are my thoughts on HP’s networking solution.

According to HP, one of the biggest problems facing their customers is that of “IT sprawl”. As a result of this sprawl, silos are created. The servers end up in a server group. Storage ends up in a storage group. The same goes for the network, database, security, and so forth. Silos, in the opinion of HP are a bad thing. They cause you to lose sight of the bigger picture.

I don’t know that I agree with that. Silos in and of themselves are not a bad thing. It takes a fairly high degree of technical ability to oversee just one of those previously mentioned areas in a decent sized enterprise network. I fail to see how you could have anything but silos. I know there are people out in the industry who think architects should not have a specialty and should be able to design anything at a high level. I call those people crazy. As you go further down the chain into engineering, support, and implementation/deployment, the level of technical abilities in a specific area becomes really important. It isn’t realistic to have people functioning within multiple silos unless the level of technical proficiency you require isn’t that great. As for the big picture, that’s what management is for. My job is to ensure the network is running. That’s a tough enough job within itself. Perhaps I misunderstood what HP was trying to say. The only cross-silo entity I want to see is the help desk. I have been in environments where you took the various tiers and put them all together under one common manager. Instead of putting all the network people together, you put the support people together, the implementations people together, the engineers together, the architects together, etc. The problem with this approach is that I always needed to interact more with people in my networking silo than I did with people who were in the same tier as me, but may have been storage, server, or security focused. I worked more with people outside of my group than with people within my group. Perhaps other people have different experiences, but from an efficiency standpoint, I favor the silo.

That was just within the first 10 minutes of the HP pitch. I wouldn’t expect to hear much of a difference if another large vendor was presenting. Sprawl is a HUGE problem that things like virtualization have dealt with. What is it about HP that makes them different? Why should you choose them over another vendor when it comes to a networking solution? In HP’s view, there are 3 reasons why.

1. Strong IP in all domains of IT. – You can’t really argue this one. HP has products in just about every major sector of IT. They believe that the only way to present an overall working solution to the customer is to have a fundamental understanding of all things IT. They have a LOT of smart people working for them(as do ALL major vendors) and those people produce a variety of products that make money as well as make our lives easier from a technology standpoint. Check out this link for some proof of that: http://h30507.www3.hp.com/t5/Data-Central/HP-Labs-Releases-2010-Annual-Research-Report/ba-p/88265

2. Open integration – HP continually hammered away at this point throughout their presentations. Everything they do, they want it to be open and standards based. This was their attempt to contrast themselves with Cisco, whom people constantly harp on for all of their proprietary protocols and technology. The problem with preaching the “standards” and “openness” mantra is that you better go to great lengths to ensure there isn’t a hint of anything proprietary in any of your hardware or software. For the most part, HP can make that claim. However, if you dig deep enough, you’ll find that HP has proprietary implementations of certain things. I don’t necessarily think it is that bad of a sin to have some proprietary element to your architecture. Key word being “some”. Juniper is doing it. Cisco, of course, does it. Brocade does it. They all pretty much do it in one form or another. I think you can reach a point to where you are so “standards” focused that you end up like the United Nations. It’s a great idea, but let’s face it. Nobody goes to the UN expecting them to do anything in an expedient and efficient manner.

I will say this about HP’s desire for open integration. They want to meet the needs of their  customers in as many areas as reasonably possible. For example, in the realm of storage, HP can integrate with Fiber Channel, iSCSI, and FCoE. In short, they want to give you options.

3. Services approach – Basically, wherever you want to do business, HP will work with you. If you want everything on your local premises, they’ll help out. Outsourced environment? They can help with that too. Even if you are looking at cloud providers, HP can assist with that.

During HP’s presentation, their head of marketing for networking, Jay Mellman, said some things that interested me greatly. Jay said the following, and I am paraphrasing:

“HP has to produce first class technology and HP will never get away with taking second hand infrastructure and slapping it together. Other business lines(server,storage) are counting on HP networking to produce a quality product or they’ll get the product elsewhere.”

Maybe I misunderstood, but the impression I got was that if the networking group produces slop, the other parts of the company won’t use it. In other words, it looks like they only eat their own dog food if it tastes good.

Jay had some more thoughts that he shared with us. He said that it is not about a gold plated network or 100% uptime anymore. As far as customers go, that’s a given. What it is about is the following:

“How do I deliver the right set of services to my customer at a given point in time with the right security at the right cost and then tomorrow morning flip it to a different set of services?”

HP wants to be number 1 in networking. They lead in every other one of their sectors like servers and laptops. They have the marketing know-how and a growing number of people out there who are getting tired of paying Cisco’s premium. The question is, do they have the right technology to pull it off? I’ll leave you with that question to ponder. My next post will focus less on the philosophical marketing stuff and more on the technology that HP is bringing to the table. Stay tuned……

*****Disclaimer: As a delegate for Tech Field Day 5, my flight, food, lodging and transportation expenses were paid for in part by HP. I am under no obligation to write anything regarding HP either good or bad. Anything I choose to write are my opinions, and mine alone. **********

Categories: hp, vendors Tags: