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HP spotlights Microsoft appliance partnership as hopes dim for Neoview

HP and Microsoft jointly launched a series of new data warehouse appliance products as questions about the future of HP's Neoview data warehouse platform mounted.

Hardware giant Hewlett-Packard (HP) this week spotlighted a new portfolio of data management appliances developed in conjunction with Microsoft, while questions about the uncertain future of Neoview, HP’s homegrown data warehouse platform, continued to mount.

HP has yet to confirm or flatly deny reports that it has pulled the plug on development plans for Neoview. But two things are clear: HP will continue to support existing Neoview users regardless of what happens to the product line, and HP is committed to partnering with software vendors like Microsoft on future data warehouse appliance products.

An HP internal memo sent to company employees in December states that “we will continue to focus our commercial strategy toward the optimization of partnerships and third-party technologies in the data warehousing segment” and “continue to support our current Neoview customers as we determine the technology elements we believe will be required to solve their most pressing business problems.”

The memo, which was obtained by and subsequently verified by HP, went on to state that HP “will be communicating our formal roadmap and support program in the coming weeks.”

The Neoview data warehousing platform debuted in 2007 under former HP CEO Mark Hurd. But it failed to make a major splash in the marketplace, and HP soon found itself accused of having a poorly defined BI and data warehousing plan. HP’s increased focus on partnering around appliances is part of an effort to combat that image, according to IT industry analysts.

New appliances from HP and Microsoft aim to reduce complexity

The new BI and data warehousing appliances are based on HP hardware that has been optimized to run Microsoft business applications like SharePoint, SQL Server and Exchange, said Paul Miller, HP’s vice president of alliances. The products are also designed for ease of deployment, he added. The new portfolio includes:

  • The HP Business Decision Appliance, which is currently available and starts at $28,000 plus the cost of licenses. Miller said the HP Business Decision Appliance is optimized to run Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 and Microsoft SharePoint 2010.

  • The HP Enterprise Data Warehouse Appliance, which is also currently available and starts at $2 million plus license costs. The HP Enterprise Data Warehouse Appliance is optimized to run Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Parallel Data Warehouse.

  • The new HP E5000 Messaging System, which starts at $36,000 and is expected to be released in March. The HP E5000 will be optimized to run Microsoft Exchange Server 2010.

  • The HP Business Data Warehouse Appliance, which is due out in June, and the HP Database Consolidation Appliance, which is coming out during the second half of 2011, according to Miller. Pricing details for the two new products were not available.

Maintenance, support and consulting services for all of the new products will be handled by a single organization, Miller said.

Shoe company rolls out the HP Business Decision Appliance

The Red Wing Shoe Company Inc., which is based in Red Wing, Minn., and has offices and stores across the globe, has been testing the HP Business Decision Appliance for several months now with largely positive results, said Mike Cleary, the company’s director of IT architecture and operations.

The product is essentially a BI and reporting appliance that gives users a single place to create, store, share and collaborate on custom reports, said Cleary, who runs the product with SharePoint, SQL Server and Microsoft's PowerPivot for Excel add-in.

“[PowerPivot] allows you to handles much larger data sets -- virtually unlimited numbers of rows in your Excel spreadsheet,” he explained. “PowerPivot combined with SharePoint also gives you the common library for folks to publish any spreadsheets that they create.”

Red Wing started getting serious about BI last year, and Cleary has been impressed with the HP Decision Appliance’s ability to take pressure off of IT staff and the company’s larger-scale enterprise data warehouse.

“It allows [business users] to access data in our data warehouse, and it also works for things that we [haven’t actually put] in our data warehouse yet,” he said. “It can pull in data from less formal data sources.”

The appliance has proved relatively easy to implement, but when pressed, Cleary said he would like to see Microsoft improve some of the usability features of SharePoint. He also had one piece of advice for anyone mulling an investment in similar technology: Make sure the system can provide clear usage statistics about the types of data and reports being accessed, stored and analyzed.

“That helps you find out how important [specific information] really is,” he said. “It helps you build a business case that says, ‘Let’s take this scattered data, formalize it and get it into our corporately controlled data warehouse.’”

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