HP's Just Right IT Targets Neglected Market

Although efforts to reach the "neglected" or "untapped" mid-market shops are nothing new, HP's Just Right IT seems to have most of its ducks in a row.

Earlier this month, Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) made its latest pitch for the small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME) and small- and medium-sized business (SMB) markets.

An effort to reach the "neglected" or "untapped" or (in some go-to market messaging) "ill-served" SME and SMB markets is a recurring theme among enterprise IT vendors, but HP's new "Just Right IT" push seems to have most of its ducks in a row. It addresses the obvious, offering pre-packaged hardware, software, and services bundles that are priced -- and sized, in the case of HP's new ProLiant Microserver -- to fit the needs of SME or SMB customers.

It also offers a few intriguing -- and non-traditional -- SMB and SME amenities, such as a push-button virtualization environment (via HP's Virtualization Smart Bundles, which are powered by Microsoft's Hyper-V Server); a virtual shared storage component (that also promises to virtualize DASD storage); and a management and monitoring component, via an HP Insight console that plugs into Microsoft's System Center Essentials 2010 tool.

The biggest selling point of Just Right IT is its cost-cutting aspect. A secondary (and closely related) selling point is the promise of doing more with less.

Both sound familiar, concedes Lisa Wolfe, SMB marketing and strategy manager with HP, but Just Right IT constitutes HP's most ambitious play for SME and SMB customers. "The common theme here is driving out costs. As the economy overall tries to move in fits and starts, for small and mid-size businesses, they're still faced with pretty significant economic challenges," says Lisa Wolfe, world-wide SMB marketing and strategy manager with HP.

"The smaller businesses and even [many of] the smaller enterprises tend to not have IT resources," Wolfe continues, "so they rely heavily on their channel partners as trusted IT advisors. When it comes to IT, they have to compromise."

Just Right IT isn't quite no-compromises computing, Wolfe concedes. At the same time, she argues, it aims to come close. Smaller shops don't just get scalable, reliable, manageable hardware, she avers: they get dedicated services by virtue of HP's network of reseller partners.

What's more, Wolfe points out, Just Right IT gives resellers a means to affordably target the tough-to-crack SMB and SME market segments.

The challenge is to cobble together an affordable and manageable hardware, software, and services bundle. For a variety of reasons -- chief among them, economies of scale -- resellers have had trouble delivering SMB-oriented IT offerings that don't skimp in key areas, Wolfe maintains.

Enter HP's Just Right IT portfolio, which includes several pre-configured server offerings, including a pre-sized ProLiant MicroServer that's designed for SMB shops and which stands just 10" high.

Just Right IT likewise includes an OEM version of Microsoft's System Center Essentials (MSCE) -- complete with a custom version of HP Insight Value Edition -- that promises to help automate (and otherwise simplify) management.

"We actually believe this will create a whole new set of server-based options for our smaller resellers, smaller resellers themselves who are small businesses tend to be the ones that serve the small customers in the small segment," Wolfe explains. "It's a whole new thing down at the bottom of the pyramid: a whole new set of server-based options that our smaller resellers didn't have before," she continues, describing Just Right IT as "a one-stop-shop for when the unexpected happens and [customers] need service and support."

Aggressive Virtualizers

SME shops are surprisingly gung-ho about virtualization, claims Brad Kirby, systems management marketing manager with HP's Industry Standard Servers group. "There's some interesting data that comes out of AMR [Research]: today roughly about 20 percent of midmarket customers are actively virtualizing, [while] another 30 percent say that they're interested in virutlaizing as they move forward," Kirby explains, adding that almost three-quarters of mid-market shops "are saying that virtualization is going to be a strategic area of investment for them: either they're doing it today or they plan to do it in the future."

From this, Kirby claims that mid-market shops are "very, very aggressive virtualizers, perhaps even more so than the enterprise."

That's part of what makes the virtualization component of HP's Just Right IT portfolio intriguing. Not only does it include a canned virtualization component -- by virtue of HP's Virtualization Smart Bundles, which are powered by Microsoft's Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 -- but also boasts a virtual storage layer by way of HP's P4000 Virtual SAN Appliance (VSA) software, which promises to virtualize existing DASD storage assets.

This includes both HP and non-HP DASD storage resources, Kirby explains.

"We consider the VSA a software product, and support it regardless of hardware," he comments, conceding that "if a support issue turns into something related to [the] non-HP server hardware [on which] it is running our support does not touch that."

HP likewise claims to offer a unified management experience -- via its MSCE-based Insight Value Edition -- to manage the whole Just Right IT kit and caboodle. "For those folks that have started to go down the virtualization path, … they're going to be highly challenged by systems management," Kirby argues.

"[Virtualization] host servers [or hypervisors] become more mission-critical than they've ever been in the past. They have probably more OS images to manage than they've ever had to manage before, [and] those OS images require most of the care and feeding [of] a physical server," he continues.

"Most of these folks are IT generalists, so they can't afford to purchase and integrate a tool for storage management, a tool for server management, a tool for managing the OS and [the] applications, a tool for patching; they're looking for an integrated tool that allows them to manage the whole platform," Kirby concludes.