Hewlett-Packard Joins the Platform Parade

In the tech world, products are giving way to platforms. Count Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) among those indulging the shift with new "converged" systems and storage platforms announced at this week's business customer conference in Barcelona. The idea: give deep-pocketed buyers the option to buy ready-made tech for handling common data center jobs.

Hewlett-Packard's newest converged system. Source: HP.

"ConvergedSystem" includes models built specifically for supporting up to 1,000 virtual machines, or for crunching big data analytics, or serving dozens of virtual desktop computers from a data center. "ConvergedStorage" includes models for backup, archiving, or for high-performance flash storage. Each machine is a built for a single purpose, but self-contained to make them easier to deploy.

Speed is key to the pitch. Bill Veghte, executive vice president and general manager of Hewlett-Packard's Enterprise Group, said in a press release that the ConvergedSystem and ConvergedStorage products offer an "agile pool" of resources.

Sound familiar? It should. Every major IT supplier is pitching platforms now. Take Oracle (NYSE: ORCL  ) , which supplements tens of billions in database and software applications revenue with $5 billion in hardware sales and support. IBM, for its part, has spent decades writing consulting contracts in order to offset declining single-product sales. And even that fails from time to time: Third-quarter revenue from systems and technology (i.e., the group that sells servers) fell 17% year over year, disappointing analysts.

At Hewlett-Packard, ConvergedSystem and ConvergedStorage come as the company is selling more gear to bigger clients. Veghte's Enterprise Group accounted for 26% of fiscal Q4 revenue and more operating profit than Hewlett-Packard's once-vaunted printer division.

Why? Data growth. Cisco's annual survey of networking trends predicts that, by 2017, global data flow will exceed 1.4 zettabyte, roughly equivalent to 1.4 filled-to-the-brim terabyte hard drives. As a result of that, Gartner estimates that businesses will expand capacity by more than 800% over the next five years.

No wonder HP is making such a big deal about its new converged system. Wooing clients in Barcelona's milder winter climes isn't just a perk for the sales staff -- it's an imperative for Hewlett-Packard's increasingly enterprise-driven business.

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