December 03, 2015
TBT: When feeds and speeds led HP's talks
HP used to talk feeds and speeds to its faithful customers. This was never so obvious as in the product update talks delivered by Dave Snow, Product Planning Manager for the HP 3000 line. (He's shown here with Newswire Publisher Abby Lentz at the Chicago HP World conference, the last one where 3000 updates were delivered by Snow.) From those days when the server had its own division, I recall his gait across hotel and conference center meeting room carpets. He was lanky and dressed business casual, holding a mic with a lengthy cord that he'd reel in and coil as he talked in his Texas drawl, walking customers through the improvements to HP's iron. At another show in 2001 he carried in the smallest 3000 ever built, the brand-new A-Class system, tucked under his arm.
This week's HP presentations around servers stood in stark contrast. The high-level view (above) assigned entire product lines to segments ranging from SMB to Service Providers. In the 1990s, customers wanted to know CPU speeds and IO capacity, the number of disks that could be attached to the freshest systems, how fast the LAN speeds were. When HP talked to its customers this week in the London HP Discover show, entire lines of hardware like Integrity and Superdome could be summed up in six minutes. Snow could take six minutes on one branch of the 3000 family, answering questions along the way and pushing through dozens of slides.
Even as recently as a decade ago, Snow was unreeling tech data to customers at shows, but had shifted to the HP-UX servers in this picture from an HP Tech Forum. The passion remains in an HP presentation, but the technical details are often a throwback element. There was little Internet to deploy such details in a breaking news setting of the '90s. But Snow took on explaining details of upcoming hardware releases with relish, it seemed. In 1998 he prepped the crowd in San Diego with feeds and speeds like this:
Our first introduction of FibreChannel will be on the next generation platforms. We have decided to work on next generation platforms before we complete doing anything in the FibreChannel/HSC world. We are still looking at whether it makes business sense — in the timeframe of 2000 — to also bring the FibreChannel bus back to the current platforms. We’ve not made a commitment to do that at this point.
The 3000 really needs higher buses than HSC. The industry is moving toward PCI; not just PCI you might get on a PC, but times-two and times-four PCI. These high-speed interface cards will require a high-speed interface to the devices themselves, a place where Ultra-SCSI is being investigated for HP 3000 use.
Very quickly we see on the horizon gigabit Ethernet LANs coming down the pipe. That’s probably where we’re going to focus our first effort — allowing you to reuse the cable you’ve already put in for 100 megabit LANs, in the 2000 timeframe.
In contrast, during a six-minute segment at Discover this week, the director of Product Management for HP Enterprise Networking said that "Removing complexity is extremely time-consuming. When building a datacenter, the rule is 'Keep It Simple and Stupid." Native English speakers will recognize that the Stupid needs to be addressed to the datacenter designer, not at the solution itself. Meetings with customers today wallow in such simplification. Perhaps it's because the attendees are no longer "technologists," as the Encompass user group and HP started to call the feed and speed fans of the 1990s.It's not that the customer interplay was focused entirely on tech benefits. Snow gets credit for proposing the name change of the 3000 to e3000, a change that included a new color of bezel on the boxes that still didn't have a PCI bus. A full year before the A- and N-Class systems emerged, we reported
HP has created new hardware bezels for rack-mounted HP 3000s in a slate-grey color, “so you’ll be able to look across a crowded computer room at a series of 9000s and 3000s and clearly pick out which are the 3000s,” said Product Planning Manager Dave Snow. It was Snow who brought the rebranding proposal to the division last summer. All new systems will get new nameplates, whether they are racked models or not.
There is far more meat on the bone for the tech-inclined HP customer today, if they're ready to browse webpages or watch Livestream presentations or in YouTube videos. HP used the latter two methods this week to spread the word about its Hewlett-Packard Enterprise products at Discover. The work of a product manager is different at today's HP. When the most serious technologist traveled to learn about new HP servers, they expected tech details delivered in person, and Snow had no equal in that critical mission. My throwback question at the end of such a talk was, "Can I get a copy of those slides?"
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