Hewlett-Packard can't afford to have small and medium businesses become deer in the headlights of the economic meltdown. And so, the company is starting to kick out deals and services to make it easier for SMBs to acquire its servers and storage despite the uncertain business climate.
Today, HP rolled out a babysitting service for most of its ProLiant rack and tower servers (the entire line excepting the low-end ProLiant 100 series, which are really aimed at supercomputing and hyperscale data center customers that just want CPU engines on the cheap), its BladeSystem blade chassis and related ProLiant blade servers (including blade storage modules), and its StorageWorks EVA midrange disk arrays.
With the babysitting service - Insight Remote Support, which has been in beta testing inside HP for the past several months - the company is trying to address some pain points that SMB shops have when it comes to dealing with servers and storage and do so in a way that doesn't hit the IT budget. According to Duncan Campbell, vice president of adaptive infrastructure and small and midmarket business at HP, the company polled its own SMB customer base and found out that 90 per cent of them are worried about unplanned downtime for their systems and 83 per cent are struggling with managing their infrastructure.
They don't have the skills or the time to do proactive management on their boxes. And if HP can help them with this, that is one less thing SMB shops have to worry about. It will also improve the reputation of HP as a vendor and its ProLiant and BladeSystem as machinery. One other pain point SMBs have in general - particularly these days - is cash. They are not going to spend extra for services, even if it is for their own good.
And that is why Insight Remote Support is free, according to Campbell, provided that companies have a valid warranty on their gear or CarePack service agreements if they are off warranty. The machines have to be running Microsoft Windows, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, or Novell SUSE Linux or NetWare to run the agent software and thus be managed.
To turn the service on, all customers have to do is go to HP's site and download an agent. Then HP will babysit the box, making sure the iron is working properly and warning customers of impending failures. If customers want, they can even set up the agent to automatically order spare parts when a disk or another component fails and dispatch an HP engineer to install it.
Campbell says that in early tests, HP was able to fix problems 20 per cent faster for customers using the babysitting service. And it had a nearly 100 per cent first-time fix rate in problems because of the diagnostic tools HP has built and their access to machines through agents.
The service is not intended for HP's largest customers, according to Campbell. It's aimed at companies with fewer than 50 servers. "Once you get over that threshold, you really need more capability than this provides." Moreover, very large companies tend to have other system management frameworks, such as Tivoli from IBM, Unicenter from CA, and OpenView from HP that do a lot more sophisticated monitoring.
Such remote monitoring is nothing new, of course, even if it is new to ProLiant and BladeSystem shops. Back in 1988, when IBM launched its AS/400 minicomputers to SMB shops that barely knew what computers were, those machines came with a modem and a feature called Electronic Customer Support. IBM's Rochester labs, where the AS/400s were made, did proactive maintenance on the hardware in the box, and this was also the line through which remote diagnostics could be done in the even that IBM's software support people were unable to resolve an issue.
Zero percent financing in Europe now
Because there are lots of SMBs in Europe, HP will also today extend the zero per cent financing deal that launched in the United States and Canada to European countries. The European deal is slightly different, in that it is available for ProLiant and BladeSystem machines as well as StorageWorks disk arrays under a 30 month, zero per cent lease, compared to 12 or 36 month leases in the U.S. and Canada.
ProCurve switches can have 24 or 36 month leases under the European deal. These lease rates are only going to be available until April 30 in the US, Canada, and Europe, which coincides with the end of HP's second fiscal quarter. The US zero per cent financing offer spans deals from $1,500 to $150,000, while the Canadian deal spans from $5,000 to $150,000 (the former is in greenbacks, the latter in looneys). HP did not provide the financial bookends for this deal in pounds and euros as we went to press, but it probably has a shape similar to the deals in North America.
European SMB customers are also being given special bundles on ProLiant machines to help spur some check-writing. HP is offering customers a 31 per cent discount off a ProLiant DL360 G5 (1U) or DL380 G5 (2U) machine with a Xeon E5420 processor, 2 GB of main memory, a RAID controller with 256 MB of cache, and a DVD drive. Both of these machines do not have disk drives, which are not being discounted. Customers opting for blades in Europe can pick up a ProLiant BL460c G5 server using the same E5420 processors with 4 GB of memory and a RAID controller with a 128 MB cache for 32 per cent off list price.
Finally, HP will also announce that SMBs that don't want to buy ProLiant or BladeSystem servers to run various Microsoft Windows programs will be able to get hosted Windows instances, put out through value-added resellers under their brands and backed by HP iron, through a deal HP has inked with hosting company USA.NET.
Under the deal, VARs can resell Exchange 2007 and SharePoint as a service, as well as email archiving, enhanced and secure messaging, and mobile messaging. For the moment, the hosted Windows applications are only being made available to customers in the U.S. and through VARs located in the U.S. But over time, HP expects to go global with the hosted alternative, which moves IT from the capital budget to the operating budget - something many SMBs are keen to do as they conserve cash. ®