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Virtualization you can afford

When HP rolled out its latest generation of virtualization solutions Sept. 12, the vendor leaned on a lower-cost option to entice small businesses. Since so many HP 3000 customers work from this SMB segment, this aspect of virtualization looks like it's pitched straight at 3000 shops — and the biggest share of the platform's migrating customers, those who are moving to Windows.

HP's virtualization solutions for the small customer rely on VMWare, a well-regarded PC-based solution for Windows and other operating systems. HP wants its customers to hear about PC-based solutions, and it's spending marketing budget to inform you of these options. We talked about the VMWare options in our September printed edition of the NewsWire.

In addition to briefing editors and analysts, HP wants to tell migrating customers about the VMWare and Intel-Windows option. A message this morning from InfoWorld encouraged us to download a white paper, Building Business to Scale, written by InfoWorld columnists and sponsored by HP. InfoWorld writes these as marketing tools for vendors, but charges $195 for a 15-page PDF paper once the sponsorship contract expires. This week, their paper is free, if you give them your contact information. It's a pretty good summary of how to do IT for less. But some of that advice might not be a way to steer you to HP's solutions.

In the section "Building IT on the Cheap," one writer delivers this advice to customers trying to squeeze a budget tight:

Skip the brand-name desktop. Go the generic server route instead. White-box systems are unbranded servers and desktops. You’re using them now, whether you realize it or not. In my opinion, the premium charged for a low-end system’s service and support nets the buyer little to nothing.

That might not be the best way to encourage a customer to buy HP products, but it was probably a line that HP's marketing team could live with.

Support for Wintel PC-based solutions is turning out to be one of the hidden costs in going to an HP 3000 alternative. 3000 customers are used to paying for their support; it's so vital to the equation that HP thought ending MPE/iX support would motivate customers to migrate. Support of Dell's systems is supposed to be among the worst, if you buy at the lower ends of their product line — but even HP's PC support has prompted tales of woe. You need to buy higher up the product line to ensure reliablity.

Virtualization is a great technology for making hardware compute full time. It gives a 3000 customer the ability to run Windows and Linux on one Intel-based server. If you want to add HP-UX to that virtual mix, you'll need to buy HP's Intel-based servers, the Integrity line. We posted a podcast about choosing Integrity last month.

Staying in the scale of Windows solutions will demand you manage your support closely, since these systems can be far less reliable than the 3000 you've been using. In the Transition era, support is a resource that will require a direct relationship. Windows PCs are not built to rarely fail, unless your investment level is well above the lower ends of a vendor's line