Although considered a platform vendor and competitor to Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard's Network Server Division is betting big on Windows NT. HP's partnership with Intel, to create the Merced processor, which has binary compatibility with all Windows applications, and HP's long experience in enterprise computing, position the vendor as a key force behind Windows NT. IDG reporter Judy DeMocker talked to Duncan Campbell, worldwide marketing manager for HP's Network Server Division, about NT and the changing role of server hardwareIDG: What market is HP currently targeting most?
Duncan Campbell: The most target-rich area right now is what we call the "application server marketplace". It has the hottest growth rate; it's providing the greatest value for our customers; and it has the richest margins. For these reasons, it is our priority in terms of how we're targeting the market.
Also, it's an area in which HP has most of its proven strength historically. HP's been in the server business for a number of years, even before we got into the Intel server business, and we have a strong reputation and history in this space.
IDG: What kind of business problems do IS managers in charge of servers face?
DC: As environments become increasingly more complex and more diverse, the concept of both local and remote management is absolutely critical to our customers. Our strategies with our OpenView products and applications that plug on top of that are of utmost importance.
And as our products get deployed in remote offices and replicated in site and remote branch offices, the concept of doing remote management - where you have very unskilled professionals at remote offices - is clearly our goal; that's what we're driving on to help these IS managers. So management will get the first priority.
The second key priority is addressing the high-availability requirements as these applications become more critical. So, for instance, our recent Pentium Pro LX products have not only hot-swappable disk drives, but hot-swappable power supplies, redundant fans, and systems with memory scrubbing so they fix their own memory problems. They can actually really keep functioning if the CPU fails - as well with our fault-resilient booting.
So just what comes to bear on the marketplace with Pentium Pro is tremendously exciting and really kind of enriches what we can do on the high-availability front. This is being complemented by what we're doing on the software side with our clustering, using Microsoft's Wolfpack APIs, which provide high availability as well.
Also, we are working on different implementations of security and determining how this becomes more of an issue as people start to deploy things like intranets and look for Web-based management activities.
IDG: How is HP going to ride the crest of the Windows NT wave and not cannibalise its HP-UX business?
DC: That's a very fair question that a lot of people right now have been asking HP and HP's been asking itself. And I think the only way to respond to that is twofold. First, it's much better to have a little bit of overlap yourself than to leave gaping holes for your competition. So yes, the Windows NT - especially with Pentium Pros - products have raised the bar. Not just against our HP 9000, but against the Unix business from an industry standpoint. So, in fact, [Windows NT] is now really a mid-range computer-class competitor. Second, Windows NT has definitely caused the HP 9000 family to raise its own performance levels with the HP PA 8000 chip.
IDG: With the merging of HP and Intel-chip platforms, where does HP-UX live?
DC: What we're driving on, from a product and technology point of view, is to make sure that we do have a consistent platform from bottom to top. That allows the customers to choose between NT and Unix. NT can move up as far as it wants, and that's going to be driven by the customer. Unix can move as far down as it wants, based on the performance needs. This is the conceptual model we'd like to get to.
IDG: Aren't there several PC vendors creeping into the application-server business?
DC: This is a very good point. If you step back and understand things from an Intel standpoint, I think it's extremely significant when Intel system vendors arrive on the scene, which they have done recently in the Internet and intranet marketplace.
To me it means that the market is ready for mass volume, and, in fact, certain parts of it [are ready for] commoditisation. So other vendors in this space, who have been in here before - some of the RISC vendors - need to step up their value add, because once the Intel vendors recognise that this is now right for market penetration, look out!