HP’s ProCurve Now an Open Network Blade

The thin line between networking hardware and application servers is getting even more blurry, thanks to HP’s latest move.

HP’s (NYSE: HPQ) network equipment division is launching a new initiative called the HP ProCurve Open Network Ecosystem (HP ProCurve ONE), which enables applications to run inside of a network blade.

HP ProCurve has signed up Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), Avaya, McAfee, F5 and Riverbed as partners for the program, which could help HP to compete more effectively against networking giant Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO).

“HP is the largest IT provider on the planet,” Marius Haas, senior vice president and general manager of HP ProCurve, said during a Webcast press conference today.

“So the kind of depth and breadth of coverage that we have at HP is something that outweighs anything that has presented itself in the networking space as a true alternative to what Cisco provides.”

Cisco has its own application server on a network blade effort called the AXP, which was announced in April of 2008. Cisco is also reportedly expanding its application delivery capabilities with a new server lineup.

Like Cisco’s AXP, HP will use Linux as the core underlying operating system on which application vendors will deliver their solutions. A Linux 2.6 kernel will sit on top of HP’s new ProCurve ONE Services zl Module, which is a blade that plugs into the ProCurve Switch 5400zl and 8200zl series switches.

An HP spokesperson explained to InternetNews.com that the Linux OS is being used as a service OS to provide application installations, diagnostics and the checking of application licensing credentials. The applications themselves bring their own OS, just as if they were an appliance.

Microsoft, which is one of HP’s launch partners for the ProCurve ONE service, shrugged off the Linux aspect of ProCurve ONE.

“From the Microsoft perspective the boxes running in my office are running Windows Server 2008 and they’re doing just fine,” Tim Sinclair, a general manager with Microsoft, said in response to a question from InternetNews.com. “In the spirit of choice, if customers have solutions that they need to run on Linux and they are set for that, it enables customers’ choice. But for the solutions we have it is running Server 2008.”

Networks of Partners

Though partners like F5 and Riverbed also sell their own hardware appliances, the opportunity to sell as part of the ProCurve ONE solution expands their options, company executives said.

HP’s Haas argued that in general the ability for a application vendor to have both their own hardware as well as the option to run on ProCurve infrastructure will provide value for both HP and its partners.

“How do I get this in front of as many customers as possible, one of the things we haven’t done adequately in the past is cover the market,” Haas said. “Now it’s my job with our organization and our partners to get in front of customers and present our value proposition to make sure they understand and see it, that’s where historically we’ve not been. With that increased market coverage we’ll create demand for our partners, generating incremental growth.”

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