Buying a Unix server from HP is a direct transaction that's gone indirect. We recently got a message from HP 3000 software vendor STR Software, who also sells solutions for HP's Unix line. One of Ben Bruno's customers is struggling to get to the correct part of HP and upgrade an HP 9000 system.
"We are looking to replace our HP 9000 with a new HP system," the customer told Bruno. "Unfortunately, we can’t seem to get anyone at HP to talk with us on this upgrade. I’m looking for a sales team to evaluate our current solution and make a recommendation for the replacement/upgrade. I’m really hoping to stay with HP, but I just can’t seem to get to the 'right' person."
From the looks of this request, Bruno's customer isn't a large enough enterprise to merit HP's direct attention. This is one area where moving away from the HP 3000, and into HP's Unix systems, lands a customer in the realm of resellers. The resellers were moving most of the 3000 systems by the time HP stopped selling them in 2003. Direct vendor sales teams stick to large accounts.
The evaluation and recommendation is the dicey part of a Unix customer's needs, if they want the analysis from HP. The trick is for a customer to be of a size that HP wants direct contact with today. We've heard the current figure is a $4 million purchase to get direct HP attention -- otherwise, you're purchasing through the reseller channel reps. There are several HP hardware resellers, dealing in both old and new systems, 3000 and HP Unix, who can evaluate and quote. They provide the direct attention you would expect from a sales team of the old HP.
As to sources, lots of our sponsors sell HP's new-generation Unix servers. Genisys and Bay Pointe Technology come to mind right away. The Support Group is another hardware resource that also offers Unix sales, plus software and application support. These kinds of suppliers are eager for the direct contact with customers, regardless of the size of the deal.
HP is doing more direct sales of its ProLiant servers (Windows/Linux) these days, but the eval and recommendations are still not easy to get out of the HP reps -- unless you're a customer of a certain size. There's HP's Factory Express to get a custom build of an HP server, whether it's a ProLiant or the Integrity line. (800.282-6672, www.hp.com/go/factory-express.) But you won't mistake Factory Express for the classic HP 3000 experience of an in-person visit to evaluate, followed by a recommendation from a familiar sales rep.
One of the reasons that the ProLiant line has more HP reps is because of a lower price range. HP has to hold down its direct sales entry bar on systems like the new G7 servers announced last week at the HP Technology Forum. Bladed systems -- which is where the migrating midsize customer should be headed, using the C3000 or C7000 chassis -- start at $3,079 for the BL465c G7, and a 4-processor BL685 G7 blade is $10,268. You make the initial investment in the chassis, but you'd be buying a rack for the ProLiant DL servers, anyway. (A fully-stocked blade chassis is shown above.)
Of course, the above prices are for Windows/Linux servers, plus something HP has started to call UNIX x86. That last item is not the HP Unix which Bruno's customer is using, or something HP will sell. Sun sells UNIX x86 (or Oracle does, by now) and it's been called Solaris.
But there are also bladed HP-UX solutions in the Integrity line. You know that it's been awhile since a customer has bought a Unix server from HP if they're asking for an upgraded HP 9000. That's a product number associated with HP's PA-RISC chips, a design HP stopped selling for both MPE/iX and HP-UX environments. ProLiants run on Opteron, and the Integrity units use Itanium2.
HP is protective of the HP 9000 business which remains, however -- the companies who use HP for hardware and software support, or purchase storage and networking to integrate with their HP 9000s. A hardware virtualization solution is on the way for the Sun Unix and HP 3000 MPE/iX environments. But none at all for the HP 9000s, or IBM's Series i/AS400. In HP's case, the vendor doesn't sell the hardware anymore, but doesn't want to see a competitor rise up. In IBM's case, it's still building Series i systems.
Bruno's customer said they want to stick with HP while buying a Unix upgrade, a choice that will lead them to stick to the reseller market. IBM might be more directly responsive. But then there would be a migration from one Unix to another to manage, too.