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Jun 14 2011

Thoughts and observations from HP Discover

I’m back from spending a great week at the HP Discover conference in Las Vegas and I though I would provide my thoughts and observations from it. Before I begin let me disclose that HP paid for all expenses of my trip as part of their program to bring a group of bloggers on site so they could soak up everything at the show and publish their thoughts and opinions on it. So in no particular order here my thoughts and observations from HP Discover:

  • HP reported about 10,000 attendees but that seemed a bit high to me, I’ve been to many VMworlds were attendance has ranged from 11,000 – 17,000 and it didn’t seem close to those numbers. In fact I’ve been to VMworld at the exact same hotel (The Venetian) and it seemed much more crowded.
  • HP has one of the best social media programs that I’ve ever seen, I’ve been to a few HP blogger events and they cover are super organized, well-planned and executed. HP realizes what a valuable resource bloggers are and it shows, they take care of all expenses, even in miscellaneous ones. When I checked in they had a welcome package with information, swag & a HP t-shirt embroidered with twitter handles on the back. They had a fully equipped blogger lounge with lockers, tables, chairs, snacks, drinks and even provided USB cellular dongles for connectivity. They had schedules all printed up with notable events that would be of interest to the bloggers and arranged special coffee-table sessions in the blogger lounge with key HP personnel. In short HP went all out to provide the bloggers everything they need to get the most out of the conference and have an environment to work in. Ivy Worldwide that handles all the logistics for HP does an incredible job.
  • HP had an official conference app for every smartphone including iPhone, Android, WebOS (duh) and Blackberry, this allowed access to your schedule and provided all sorts of information about the show including maps, session and general information. In today’s world this is almost a no-brainer as probably 9 out of 10 attendees has a smartphone. I wish other companies (VMware) would do this as well at their conferences. It served as an invaluable companion during the conference.
  • The # of sessions that were given was off the chart, almost 900 sessions, how can you possibly choose from that many. It made trying to schedule sessions very difficult as their was just way too many to sort through. To make matters worse most of the sessions were not recorded it all, so you either saw it at the conference or not at all. Maybe of the better ones booked up fast that excluded people from attending them. I would much rather see quality over quantity, VMware limits the number of sessions to around 200 and has an extensive process to ensure only the best sessions make the conference.
  • Oracle was playing childish games at the conference, they had signage on many taxes that said Sun was 7x faster than HP, they also had an elaborate see-through van circling the hotel with old HP servers inside and a Cash for Clunkers sign on it. As most of the attendees probably never left the hotel at all during the event most of their efforts were probably wasted any. Why don’t you grow the hell up Oracle, do you really think people make buying decisions based off immature marketing pranks? All you ended up doing is showing your desperation in your efforts to try and win HP customers to switch to your crappy products.
  • I’m primarily a virtualization guy, but I’ve been a very long time user of HP servers and storage devices. It was great to see all the many products first hand and ask questions of the product engineers. HP dominated their vendor exhibition area and probably had almost half the floor space devoted to their products. As you would expect there were only strategic partners and vendors that did not directly compete with HP present which is OK with me. However I found that their was a profound lack of focus on virtualization technologies both in the sessions and in exhibition area. VMware had a pretty small booth with not much on display and few people staffing it and their were very few vendors on hand that focused on virtualization products, Veeam & Vkernel were the only two that I saw there. Given how important virtualization is to the data center and converged infrastructures I would of expected to see a lot more of it at the conference. Even HP didn’t have much focus in that area and I was a bit dis-appointed in what I saw.
  • Web-OS was all the rage at the show given it’s impending release on tablet devices. While I haven’t been a big fan of their web-OS phones mainly due to the lack of apps for it, I think they are going to hit it out of the ballpark with tablets and we will finally have a worthy competitor to the iPad. I currently own an Android tablet (Galaxy Tab) and an iPad and I have not been impressed with the Android tablet at all. From what I’ve seen and heard about the Blackberry playbook I don’t think anyone but RIM is impressed with it as well. The forthcoming HP TouchPad tablet is just plain slick and the price point is right were it needs to be starting at $499 to compete with the iPad. Don’t believe me, check out this video, I know I’ll be getting one. The app ecosystem may not be there today like the iPad but I think we’ll see rapid growth once it is released.
  • The large vendor exhibition area was very dark, when I first walked in I assumed it was closed because of that and almost turned around and walked out. HP turn some lights on in there next time, the dark movie theater lighting didn’t give me a good vibe. There was also a surprisingly lack of booth babes that you typically see at tech conferences which was a nice change, while I enjoy looking they are a bit distracting. I did see at least a few Elvis’s wandering the floor though.
  • HP was showing off their newly announced VirtualSystem which is their converged infrastructure solution built for virtualization and is designed to compete with EMC’s vBlocks and NetApps FlexPods. I was really interested in this but their was a distinct lack of detail into what exactly this solution is. From what little I was able to see and read I see this this is essentially a marketing wrapper placed around a specific configuration of servers and hardware that is designed to be a turnkey, certified virtualization solution. Supposedly it only supports vSphere & Hyper-V right now and support for other hypervisors may be added later on. I read through the fact sheet and solution brief on HP’s site and it was so general it really didn’t tell me what components that the system was comprised of. I hope HP releases more details on this solution so I can find out what makes it tick and how it compares to its competitors.
  • In the storage space, HP seems to be making a big shift to 3Par storage to replace many of their existing storage lines. From what I’ve seen of the 3Par storage units they are top-notch and HP made a wise decision in purchasing them. The 3Par arrays include some unique features and blazing performance that make them very attractive. Besides that yellow & black color scheme can really brighten up a data center and make it pop.
  • If you haven’t seen this cool video yet on HP’s converged infrastructure narrated by Marc Farley, check it out, it’s very nicely done. Speaking of Marc Farley, if you haven’t seen this video yet of him getting down in the restroom it’s definitely worth a view.
  • One thing I wanted to find out more about but didn’t was HP’s StoreOnce deduplication technology, HP has some good white papers published on it here that you can check out.
  • I did get a chance to walk-through HP’s data center in a box solution, the HP Performance Optimized Datacenter (POD), anybody can stick racks in a shipping container but what impressed me most about their POD was the environment controls with adaptive cooling, fire suppression systems, security card readers, energy efficiency and large power capacity. Check out the Quickspecs on the POD, you can also see a video overview of it here.
  • One of the HP coffee table sessions was with the team responsible for re-designing HP’s website who was gathering our feedback to assist them in making design decisions. I’ve almost pulled my hair out a few times trying to find information on HP’s massive website so I can really appreciate what they are trying to do and hope they implement a design that makes finding information much easier.

Well that’s all I have for the moment, I may add more things to this post as they come to me, all in all it was a great event and I was glad that I was able to attend it.

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