Late last week,
I had the opportunity to spend some time on the phone with a customer who had a
large UNIX install base, but was considering HP and HP-UX 11i v3 for the first
time. The account team was on site, and obviously covered many more topics than
I did during my 45 minutes on the phone. However, I found the customer's
response to what I had to say quite interesting, and it got me thinking about
server design, and real-world customer problems.
While I covered
the whole software portfolio, the customer really had questions about two areas
- our high availability and disaster recovery portfolio, and our orchestration
capabilities. In fact, I ended up going back to our orchestration products multiple
times, just to answer all of their questions. The customer was amazed that HP
Insight Orchestration, as part of our Converged Infrastructure, could automate
such a big part of their day to day provisioning process. To them, this would
help solve a huge operational problem - reducing the ongoing maintenance costs
as part of their overall it budget. This is something HP experienced - reducing
maintenance and operations from 70% of the IT budget and reducing it to around
30% of the IT budget. The first model was making IT unsustainable.
This got me
thinking about the what our customers ask for in new servers. Everyone expects
that the new servers will offer more performance than the previous generation.
Everyone expects that power consumption will drop. These are good
characteristics, but is that all the innovation you want from your server
vendor? A faster chip, but in the same old box - what comes to my mind when I see the new POWER 7 servers.? With the same old maintenance
issues? A vendor who makes great hardware, but looks at customers as support
annunities? A vendor who isn't invested in reducing maintenance as percentage
of your IT budget - solving the big IT problem?
released their new Itanium 9300 processor, and HP will announce its new systems
within 90 days. My question: will they just be the same old servers, just with
a faster processor? Or will they be something more for mission critical
environments? Will HP take steps to help our customers dig out from their
maintenance costs? What are you looking for in these new servers?
Since I often speak with customers in my role, I tend to run into some scenarios on a regular basis. As part of the worldwide team, I also get to spend time with people who understand certain areas of our business at great depth, and learn about offerings we have that can help our customers. This was the case the other day when I was speaking with Swaroop, a co-worker who works on compilers, Java, and transition tools.
We were speaking about a common scenario that we often come across - lots of HP 9000 PA-RISC servers functioning perfectly well at a customer site. The customer would like to get rid of the old servers and consolidate on something more efficient, but their code runs on PA-RISC and they don't want to upgrade or re-write their code to work on HP Integrity servers. I've known about the Aries translator, but Swaroop gave me an in-depth view of the "Over Easy" portfolio.
As I've heard for years, the Aries translator runs HP 9000 PA-RISC binaries on HP Integrity servers. It works well, but like any translation, it isn't as efficient are recompiling the code to a native mode, although the translator gets more efficient the longer that it runs. Naturally, if you take an old server, the performance per core of a new server is so much higher that even with the translator the performance might improve compared to the old environment.
The next tool is for Java environments. It is called HP Mixed Mode Translator (MITR). Essentially, this runs the HP Integrity Java Virtual Machine instead of the HP 9000 JVM. However, if the Integrity Java JVM calls a HP 9000 library, MITR automatically makes sure that the library runs under the Aries translator. This gives you the benefit of a native JVM (such as performance improvements), but still using the rest of your HP 9000 libraries.
Third, for developers, there is the HP XPADE - namely the HP 9000 Cross Development Environment for Integrity. This allows you to develop your HP 9000 code on newer HP Integrity servers. HP XPADE provides a self-contained and fully functional HP 9000 HP-UX C/C++ development environment on HP-UX 11i for HP Integrity servers.
Finally, if you are at the point that you want to move code from HP 9000 to HP Integrity servers, HP offers a number of HP Software Transition Kits. There is a Software Transition Kit from HP 9000 and HP-UX to HP HP-UX on Integrity. There are other software transition kits as well - Linux, Solaris, Tru64, and AIX. There are other tools as well. And naturally, HP is has a lot of upgrade, transition, and migration expertise, including Migration Competency Centers. If you need help, HP is happy to help provide it.
As I mentioned, I learned a lot about how to get HP 9000 code onto newer HP Integrity servers, which often reduces maintenance activities, support costs, power, cooling, and floor space costs, and more. Hopefully you find this information useful as well.
A number of years ago, I was working booth duty at Linux World in San Francisco. I believe that I was showing off the HP Virtual Server Environment for Integrity servers running Linux, now Insight-Dynamics - VSE for Integrity servers
At one point during the day, after a customer demo, one of the two people watching the demo started asking about HP-UX 11i, and UNIX in general. We talked about server virtualization for HP-UX for a bit, and then came the big question. Does UNIX have a future? Isn't Linux on x86 going to wipe it out?
My answer then, much as it is now, was that UNIX is a large, mature market, and that the existing vendors were going to keep innovating in that market for years to come. The revenues on non-x86 servers, at least back then, were roughly the same as for x86 servers, although the x86 server market was and is growing faster. Linux is going to grow, especially for new workloads. However, UNIX will still deliver mission critical environments, especially for existing workloads, better than many of the operating systems typically found on x86 servers. I used server virtualization as a proof point: the UNIX environments were offering a variety of mission critical virtualization technologies that were not available on Linux at that time (such as dynamic hard partitions and instant capacity), and indeed, are still not available today. In other words, Linux was small and growing, but UNIX was big and stable, and would be around for years to come.
After the customer walked away, satisfied with the answer, the other person watching the demo spoke up. She worked on AIX, and commented that she was glad I got to answer that question, since she also had to answer it many times! We shared a laugh, and went our separate ways.
Now, years later, I still get the question on a regular basis, and my answer is still much the same. I keep speaking with sales reps, who are still making a living selling UNIX. I keep speaking with customers, who definitely want more UNIX servers, and are often wondering not whether or not to keep UNIX, but which UNIX vendor they should buy from (HP of course, since that is where I draw a paycheck <grin>).
In addition, we have the Gabriel Consulting Group reports on UNIX preference . Their report on UNIX is title UNIX: Alive, Well, and Strategic . In short, the report states something that many of us already know: In the datacenter, UNIX is still a go to choice for mission critical workloads, especially for large enterprise customers.
I look forward to working with those customers and sales reps for years to come.