As I learned from our studies, HP is a strong participant in the data warehouse/business intelligence markets. Last month, however, it made several new product announcements and initiatives that serve to underscore its commitment to serve those markets for a long time to come. Taken together, it is clear that HP is making a strong bid to capture a bigger chunk of the high-end market than it currently holds ­ that is, for data warehouses ranging upward of several terabytes. While there is nothing to suggest that the company is ignoring the low end, much of the new focus is on large customers, "big iron" and big projects.

The cornerstone new hardware product is the HP 9000 V2500 Enterprise Server. (I've always hated HP's nomenclature. Hard to believe the company is based in Silicon Valley ­ sounds more like Boston, don't you think?) The V2500 is based in part on technology that HP inherited from Convex Computer Corporation, a Texas-based supercomputer company that HP acquired a few years ago. Convex called its machine the Exemplar (well, that's Texas for you), one of those early nineties MPP "dealybobs" that scaled big time. The trouble with the Exemplar was that it didn't run plain vanilla HP-UX which scared off HP from peddling it to commercial accounts.

All that is fixed with the introduction of the V2500. This honey is available as a straight SMP box with up to thirty-two 440 MHZ processors. From there, the system scales to 128 processors and 128GB of directly addressable system memory in an SCA (Scalable Computing Architecture) configuration. These systems are positioned to handle warehouses in the two to seven terabyte range. Later, HP will offer EPS-configured systems offering up to 2,048 processors and designed to handle 10TB+ warehouses. Accompanying these big boxes is an array of storage hardware options designed to scale right along with the processing capability.

To support the requirement for high availability in the large-scale environment, HP is working with software platform vendors such as Oracle to enable it to offer what it calls its "5nines:5minutes" program, meaning 99.999 percent up time. Included in this initiative is the capability to provide multi-thousand-mile application failover and data protection for global data warehousing and other cluster-based solutions for disaster recovery.

While all of this is of interest to warehouse builders, these products are generic and serve the needs of a diverse base of applications. Perhaps more interesting to readers are the initiatives that are specifically aimed at the warehouse/business intelligence business. These initiatives are solutions oriented, and most of them are focused on vertical industries across a broad range of applications. Available in the short-term are solutions for the telecommunications and financial services sectors. Later, similar programs are planned for retail, manufacturing and other sectors.

While there isn't enough space here to describe all of these programs, a quick look at the telco offering illustrates the point. In this case, a customer can get (through HP) all of the components it needs to implement a variety of applications that are based on call detail records. These applications fall under the heading of call behavior analysis and include apps relating to regulation, billing, marketing, sales and network planning. A part of the package is HP's acceSS7 Business Intelligence solution ­ a solution which collects information based on SS7 call detail records (CDRs) ­ which provides an insight into your network that is not available today by any other means. Collection of the information is independent of the switches and does not affect traffic flows.

The package includes services ranging from project management to implementation to ROI measurement. These services are provided by HP Consulting, which has over 2,500 telecom professionals on its staff. Also included are the DBMS, OLAP tools, front-end report templates and the information the customer needs to build a business case and create a road map for bringing a successful call behavior analysis program to fruition.

Another initiative likely to get a lot of play in the months to come is one that HP calls Business Intelligence for ERP. This is essentially a move to jump on the SAP Business Warehouse bandwagon. (Gee, SAP says it's a bandwagon.) HP claims to be the platform for over 4,800 SAP installations, so it expects to capitalize on SAP's warehouse by peddling the hardware and services needed to support it. The company is careful to point out that it will be offering similar solutions for Baan, Oracle and PeopleSoft warehouses with partners or directly with the ERP vendors if and when they become available.

To sum up, one of the industry's biggest players is flexing its biceps, triceps, pecs and abs in the data warehouse/business intelligence space. Given HP's propensity for follow-through and commitment, I have no doubt that it will continue to be a major force in that space for the foreseeable future.

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