HP showed off the future of online training yesterday during its three-hour ProLiant G6 Web Jam. The event that introduced the latest generation of Windows servers consisted of several recorded briefings from inside HP's ProLiant labs in Houston, live chats between viewers and HP staff, as well as documents such as white papers and data sheets.
That last element was provided in an Event Bag, a zip file of documents you select during the broadcast of the videos. HP ran the production out of its Virtual Events Central Web site. The interface conjures up a visit to a computer conference with separate entries to a networking lounge, exhibit hall or auditorium. On the main page of the conference "lobby," animated attendees pass across a carpeted area. (Traffic this light would have exhibitors upset at a real event.) It's all meant to invoke the spirit of attending a show. In some aspects, HP's Tuesday presentation did more than the vendor might have intended to cook up the show experience.
HP would not go to the expense to create this event without making it available afterward. You can still go to www.hp.com/go/web-jam to register and see the G6 team's videos and fill up your event bag. Being there yesterday would have put you in the company of several hundred other "attendees" for networking inside chat rooms.
If you'd dedicated time to watch the full event, and had a prerequisite knowledge of the ProLiant hardware, yesterday would have been training time well spent. HP essentially turned on a video camera when it briefed partners and staff about the sixth generation of ProLiant servers. Like at any good conference, HP's more technical presenters told the unvarnished truth about product design. One member of the Blades SWAT Team showed mentioned a component whose failure erases a ProLiant's midplane board serial number.
The unidentified member of the HP Blades SWAT Team also offered assurance that ProLiant customers will be able to recover from such a failure.
There’s only one active component on it. I always thought it was a bit ironic that if [this component] dies, the only thing that will happen is that you will lose the serial number as well as the spare part replacement number — the two things you need to replace this. Luckily, if you’re using System Insight Manager, the information is stored in your SIM database. But besides this component, this is nothing but a big thick piece of plastic with a lot of wires running through it.
HP includes an Onboard Administrator in every G6 that communicates with the SIM. HP says the component "is like having a programmable administrator inside each server. On HP ProLiant 100 series G6 servers, ProLiant Onboard Administrator Powered by iLO100 works hand-in-hand with HP Systems Insight Manager, RBSU, ORCA, and the embedded Baseboard Management Controller (BMC) to provide entry-level remote management and control."
The briefings unfolded in presentations of up to 20 minutes that reminded me more of reality TV than an HP infommercial. The camera work was on-the-fly instead of rehearsed, and sometimes the audio was a little light on the volume. When the attendees in the meeting rooms posed questions, HP identified the speakers with a caption at the bottom of the screen. (You couldn't capture that bit of information in a real conference.) You can look at a few minutes of video from the teardown briefing by clicking on the screen shot above.
Those asking questions were clearly already well-versed in the ProLiant lineup, so this event might not have been much help for the novice Windows server administrator. You wouldn't find much contention in the Q&A, either, something that enriches a genuine conference session. It's not a stretch to say that those on hand were only examining how much greater the ProLiant-Windows solutions had just become. For example, John Obeto of SmallBizWindows.com (center, below) spoke up during the hardware tear-down session. Obeto wrote in 2006
We, contrary to current thought, encourage small businesses to upgrade to Windows Vista immediately upon release. Why? Barring any unforeseen last minute eventualities, [we count on] our experience with Vista [starting with] the release of Beta 1 back on August 3rd of 2005. Without a doubt, the security and usability enhancements alone make upgrading to Vista a no-brainer.
There's not much need to color that exhortation in 2009, considering the disappointment that Vista has visited on so many customers. But with Miocrosoft and HP reportedly extending the Windows XP experience well into 2010, Vista is no reason to avoid these new ProLiant G6 units. They'll drive an enterprise with Windows 7, as an alternative.
If you've ever wondered what a factory tour at HP is like, the Web Jam's contents will give you a taste. Watching units come off an assembly line might not solve many system management problems in the future; it never did that for the customers who earned HP 3000 factory tours, either. But you could develop relationships with factory staff on those tours. At least in 2009, a tour like the one at the Jam will still enhance your confidence about investing in HP's solution. That was always the point of the 3000 factory tours, too.
I'm looking forward to a Web Jam for the HP Integrity server line, too, since the vendor has been promoting the Integrity as a 3000 replacement. The G6 Jam was produced by the Industry Standard Server (ISS) part of HP -- an operation with roots in Compaq's business and based in Houston (thus, the Central Daylight Time schedule for the event.) Integrity rolls out of a different HP unit.