All in the Family: A Revealing Look at HP’s Windows 2000 Services and Products

HP, as a Microsoft Windows 2000 Global Launch Partner, revealed its aggressive services strategy and a number of new products at the recent Mircosoft Expo. HP is abundantly prepared to support Windows 2000 with the complete family of hardware products and a comprehensive service program.

The three-day Microsoft Windows 2000 Conference and Expo held in San Francisco was attended by several thousand eager IT professionals. Unlike Microsoft’s past major, customer-based product launches, this event was very subdued, presumably to reflect the serious nature of business computing. HP, as a Microsoft Windows 2000 Global Launch Partner, revealed its own aggressive services strategy and a number of new products.

In an approach that is typical of HP, the company is abundantly prepared to support Windows 2000 with the complete family of hardware products and a comprehensive service program. One of the most telling examples of HP’s commitment to Windows 2000 was the recent formation of the Microsoft Services Organization. (See sidebar conversation with HP General Manager David Stubbs.) The new business unit is dedicated to helping customers plan, design, implement and maintain Microsoft technologies across the enterprise to deliver what they hope to be bulletproof computing environments.

The outward relationship between HP and Microsoft exhibited during the event was all grins and thumbs-up. Although there existed some behind-the-scenes concern regarding future product conflicts, Microsoft’s Vice President of Windows Marketing, Deborah Willingham, officially echoed the mutual love by stating, "We are thrilled that HP is presenting such a comprehensive range of hardware, software, services and support for Windows 2000. The depth of HP’s services, which include consulting, migration services, license management and training, will give our mutual customers the crucial services they need."

Jim Allchin, Microsoft Group Vice President for Windows Platforms, underscored these views. "HP is building PC systems that are fully optimized for Windows 2000 … by combining world-class products and services from Microsoft and HP, customers enjoy a smoother migration path and a more consistent, manageable user experience."

Manageability Products

For many years, HP has led the pack in cross platform network management tools. With the release of Windows 2000, HP has made a renewed commitment to its flagship OpenView suite. OpenView Microsoft Alliance Manager, John Renshaw, and Product Manager, Pam Peterson, eagerly promoted the new Windows 2000 manageability tools.

The big news is something called Vantage Point for Windows, a collection of technologies that was developed for enterprise Windows 2000 manageability. According to Renshaw, "Vantage Point provides real intelligence instance tracking, and the ability to proactively understand what is being run. Vantage Point and OpenView Express were built from the ground-up to support Windows 2000. This allows significant scalability."

Building from its current enterprise successes, HP OpenView Express is designed for mid-size enterprises running Windows 2000 and other operating systems. It combines HP OpenView ManageX for proactive server control and management, OpenView Network Node Manager for network administration and event notification, and OpenView OmniBack II for backup and retrieval of stored digital data. This suite facilitates quicker problem isolation and resolution by integrating network information. Through the use of event correlation, alarms, reporting and threshold establishment, the enterprise system administrator is afforded tools to manage and troubleshoot.

HP OpenView provides policy-based management to monitor Windows 2000 systems, based on predefined thresholds. Action can be taken when failure or degradation is found in CPU utilization, memory usage, disk utilization or performance reliability. OpenView can also be used to automatically restart Windows 2000 services when thresholds are exceeded.

When asked about its relationship to Windows 2000 Active Directory, Renshaw stated that a considerable amount of effort has gone into providing APIs for future development. At this time, the relationship is rather basic, but plans for further integration are in the works. As to the relationship of HP’s management tools with Microsoft’s System Management Server product, HP was less definitive. "We consider them complementary at this stage, but there may be some functionality overlap in the future … we will have to see things develop."

In a side discussion with the CIO of Creative Artists Agency (CAA), Michael Keithley, we discovered a big fan of OpenView Express. He gave an example of the requirements that CAA has for storing and retrieving the large amounts of streaming digital data associated with the film, television and recording industry. The need to rapidly produce digital content about their clients is an important factor of their success. Keithley states that the "OmniBack feature, in particular, more than exceeded our expectations. Running OpenView Express on Windows 2000 provides both performance and reduced costs." The company currently uses 45 HP 4- and 8-way NetServer LPr, and LX 8000 and 8500 systems. In addition, it has 25 HP NetServers in place to support file, print, fax and e-mail services.

Another important application suite introduced for support on Windows 2000 is HP TopTools. This set of utilities monitors system activities and alerts users of pending component failure or other potential problems.

Enhanced Security Bundle

One of the key value-added components to the Windows 2000 mix offered by HP is its advanced security products. Denis Bournival, HP Program Manager, shared his thoughts on these security initiatives.

The HP ProtectTools 2000 optimizes the security features already available in Windows 2000. "The Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) features of the OS are further enhanced, for example, by the new HP Smart Card readers," states Bournival. "This technology is finding acceptance across industries, with highest demand in financial, government, and business to business Internet settings."

HP views the ProtectTool 2000 as a transaction-enabling technology through the use of Virtual Private Networks. "IPSec performance is also significantly improved," concludes Bournival.

HP takes the concept of their security bundle one step further. One of the most underrated areas of enterprise security relates to power management. If the system fails, costly data could be lost. In response to this issue, HP announced the HP Power Protection Device for Windows 2000. Designed to work directly with the Windows 2000 Professional hibernation mode, this compact device fits into a PC single free expansion shelf. The Power Protection Device is fully automatic, whether the PC is unattended, in sleep mode, in "suspend" mode, or in "Suspend to RAM" mode. All open file and user desktop environment backup is performed in case of power failure, shutting down the PC, cleanly and securely, within five seconds.

Services

HP is extremely aggressive in offering its Windows 2000 services. In a conversation with Ian Bromehead, who manages the Global Microsoft Solutions Services Center in Grenoble, France, he indicated that HP has opened operations around the world to support Windows 2000 proof-of-concept testing, planning and migration. "We want customers to experience Windows 2000 in a real-world environment and then to prototype their enterprise with expert support."

The Windows 2000 Readiness Assessment programs are designed to help clients understand their current IT environment and to contrast these needs against the combined products and services offered by HP and Microsoft. HP consultants work with customers to deliver large and complex implementations in a controlled test environment. The Server and Storage Consolidation Planning program is designed to assist customers to develop and manage an architectural strategy that optimizes Windows 2000 technology.

Computer Systems for 2000

HP announced 13 desktop and laptop models together with an extensive service line in support of Windows 2000. "They have developed a full range of best-in-class business PCs and network servers that will allow customers to enjoy the many benefits of Windows 2000," says Web McKinney, HP’s Vice President of PC Organization.

The Windows 2000 business desktop personal computer line includes three primary models. The HP Brio BA400 is the $799 entry-level system. It is shipped standard with a 500MHz Celeron processor, 64MB SDRAM, 48X CD-ROM and a 10 GB hard-disk drive. The HP Vectra VL600 is priced at $1,729 and includes a Pentium III 600MHz processor, 128MB RDRAM, 10 GB hard drive, 48X CD-ROM, Matrox G250 graphics, and 3Com 10/100 PCI card. (A Pentium III 667MHz model is also available for $1,969.) The HP Kayak XM600 is designed for a more serious small-business environment. At a base price of $2,319, the system is equipped with a dual Pentium III 600MHz, 128 SDRAM, 15GB hard-disk drive, and Matrox G250 graphics card. All of these systems include Windows 2000 Professional. HP is reporting performance gains of 20 percent for comparably configured systems running Windows 2000 over Windows 98.

The HP laptop Windows-2000 ready systems include both the HP OmniBook 900 "ultra-portables" and the business-designed HP OmniBook 4150 line. The standard configured HP OmniBook900 series are priced from $2,499 to $3,499, with Intel Pentium III process ranging in clock speeds from 450MHz to 650Mhz. All models except one come with a 13.3-inch XGA screen. The OmniBook 4150 ranges in price from $2,199 to $4,299, with a wide range of Intel processors. They all support 14.1-inch XGA screen and hard-disk drives, ranging in size from 6GB to 18GB.

The most important announcements surrounded the HP NetServer Systems. HP is offering a new set of models, and providing upgrade services for existing NetServers. HP is targeting Windows 2000 Advanced Server for the HP NetServer line because of the promised improved scalability, performance, reliability and uptime for database, file and Web servers. The Transaction Processing Performance Council employed its TPC-H benchmark against Sun Microsystems computers. The HP NetServer LXr8500 with an eight-way configuration was ranked first, running Windows 2000 Advanced Server over the 12-way Sun Enterprise 4500. It should also be noted that the HP NetServer costs 30 percent less than the tested Sun system.

Final Views

When attending product launches, it is common to feel jaded by over-hyped promises of products and services. I certainly felt this way when visiting some of the vendors at this Windows 2000 Conference and Expo. In contrast, HP appears to have its Windows 2000 act together.

– Robert Williams is Managing Partner for Enterprise Certified Corporation and the co-author of The Ultimate Windows 2000 System Administration Guide (Addison Wesley 2000), Windows NT & UNIX: Administration, Co-Existence, Integration and Migration (Addison Wesley 1998).

A Conversation with David Stubbs, General Manager, HP Microsoft Services Operations

David Stubbs began his HP career in 1983 in the Office Products division in the United Kingdom, and later in Hong Kong. Upon transferring to the United States, he was appointed to the position of Marketing Manager of the Software Service Division. In his current position, Stubbs applies his experience in both products and services. In recognition of the strategic importance of Windows 2000, HP created the Microsoft Services Operations division. The newly appointed General Manager of this group graciously spent some time to discuss HP’s Windows 2000 programs.

HP Professional: Tell us about the new Microsoft Services Operations Group.
Stubbs: HP’s new Windows 2000-based services will help simplify our customer’s migration to Windows 2000. We’ll be there to help them build a highly reliable IT infrastructure for online businesses, e-services and other strategic business processes in this new environment. We anticipate that about 40 percent of medium to large enterprises will deploy Windows 2000 this year. Our expertise in building and maintaining Microsoft environments will be a key sucess factor for those customers.

HP Professional: That appears to be an aggressive deployment level by your customers.
Stubbs: Yes, fully 40 percent of the customers we surveyed said they planned to deploy Windows 2000 by year’s end. Our team’s mission is to help customers unleash the power of Microsoft technology, regardless of their hardware environments.

HP Professional: HP has been a UNIX enterprise leader. How does HP really see Windows 2000 in the enterprise?

Stubbs: Windows 2000 is a very important environment for HP and we find it is particularly vital for our enterprise customers. We recognize the need for interoperability with our UNIX customers also, but the demand for enterprise-level
Windows 2000 is significant, and we intend to provide services and products.

HP Professional: What will be the great need for your customers?

Stubbs: Because of the great number of new features, we want to provide assistance in helping customers understand the inherent power and how best to use it. Our services will emphasize process management and basic infrastructure design and support.

HP Professional: Is there a single major challenge in deploying Windows 2000?

Stubbs: Until the technology is fully understood, directory services design is the greatest challenge. We want our customers to understand and plan for the use of Active Directory.

HP Professional: Do you have any final thoughts on HP’s position, with regard to Windows 2000?

Stubbs: We are here to help our customers through the entire service cycle: design, planning and maintenance technical services. That is why we have established service centers worldwide. Our sole objective is the success of our customers.

– R.W.