HP Targets SMBs With Infrastructure in a Box

HP on Tuesday launched HP Adaptive Infrastructure in a Box for Midsize Businesses, a suite of products and services designed to enable businesses with anywhere from 100 to 999 employees to more efficiently and cost-effectively manage their evolving network and IT needs.

Aiming to optimize systems performance, adaptability and business continuity while minimizing IT staff and energy resource demands, the three-tiered HP AI in a Box lineup relies on HP Proliant BL260c dual processor servers running Windows Server 2008, HP StorageWorks All-in-One SB600c Storage Blade, HP Insight Control environment management, automation, power and cooling technology, virtualization and security all packaged together in a BladeSystem c3000 Enclosure.

Unlocking Potential

Developed as a result of surveys conducted throughout its customer base of some 700,000 small and medium-sized businesses worldwide, “HP AI in a Box” will enable SMBs to “bridge over to new infrastructure, help them unlock cost advantages and realize efficiencies,” Joe Leung, worldwide program manager for HP Proliant Business Advantage, told TechNewsWorld.

“These companies are in a big squeeze. They’re looking for competitive differentiation, and IT is an area where competitive advantages can be realized, but they have to have an infrastructure that’s as robust and competent as some of the big boys out there.”

As SMBs usually have relatively small IT budgets and are more tightly constrained from a resource perspective, HP’s AI in a Box for SMBs was designed with three key elements in mind, Leung explained: Simplicity and ease of use, affordability and reliability.

SMBs typically employ fewer than 10 IT staff members, Leung noted; hence, they’re called on to do everything from configuring and administering server, data and storage networks to troubleshooting videoconferencing systems. “Unlike enterprises, where it’s easy to find storage, network and other specialists, these IT staff tend to be generalists.”

That’s where HP’s network of some 140,000 value-added resellers (VARs) comes into play. “We’ve been investing in training, and we’ll be relying heavily on our VARs and channel partners to help customers put these solutions together and custom tailor generic solutions.”

Growing by Helping SMBs Grow

HP has launched a global marketing campaign to raise awareness and tout the variety of benefits SMBs can realize by making use of all the latest server, storage, networking and security technology that it has incorporated in the AI in a Box lineup.

HP’s SMB customer base is large and diverse, and the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company places a high value on its mid-market customers, according to Leung. “The mid-market is extremely important — that’s why we have a team totally dedicated to this market. It’s extremely important to HP to focus on that. It’s a growth opportunity.”

As its name indicates, HP’s AI in a Box is designed to provide SMBs a complete, functioning core infrastructure comprised of server and storage networks, security and management tools while minimizing the time, budgetary and specialist IT skills and resources typically required to deploy and maintain the latest blade server infrastructures.

“They’ll have ubiquitous support for all core services: active directory, domain controller, file and print, security, messaging, data protection and, of course, future business growth requirements. This is the foundation any organization can build upon to support line-of-business applications, databases, etc.,” Leung said.

Doing More With Less

In addition to affording SMBs higher, more secure performance and greater operating efficiency, the HP Blade Server architecture also imbues AI in a Box for SMBs with several other features that can reduce resource use and save on costs, notably with regard to energy efficiency.

A key component the HP Blade System Portfolio is HP Thermal Logic, an automated, real-time system for managing systems’ temperature and power consumption, Leung noted.

“It doesn’t have the overhead of carrying and managing that power supply — the server and storage blades are within one enclosure with centralized power and cooling,” he said.

The Bottom Line

There are two major components that underlie AI in a Box’s ability to help SMBs reduce costs and realize greater efficiency, according to Leung, and they have to do with capital and operational expense.

Three reference AI in a Box architectures with starting costs around US$18,000 cover the range of SMBs, the first scaling up to 300 users, the second scaling up to 500 users and the third geared for use by SMBs with up to 1,000.

The lower-end SMB Server Blade has been built to deliver low power consumption and operational costs while minimizing administrative overhead at a relatively low cost, Leung explained.

“SMBs are very resource-constrained with IT generalists. They need to balance routine management tasks and strategic business initiatives,” he continued. “There’s tremendous pressure being put on IT staff and management — the management capabilities built into this solution will significantly simplify lifecycle management and take out complexity enabling IT staff to do more in less time.”

A study by IDC found that making use of HP Insight Control generated a return on investment of 500 percent over a three-year period for the 100 user category, Leung noted. “The largest contributor was found to be increased IT staff productivity with an average 42 percent return over the three-year period.”

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