Cisco’s proprietary offering worked well because there was nothing extraordinary that people wanted out of those switches. The HP offering, whereas, follows open standards; its cloud implementation is an open stack implementation and whenever you follow open standards, it means that you can integrate with disparate things. Deepak B Phatak, Professor at IIT-B, Mumbai, tells Inclusion as he speaks about the impressive strides HP has made
The innovations that HP has been able to do in the last year-and-a-half – when I had visited them earlier – are phenomenal. Both their networking products and their software division have done great work. I was amazed to see how quickly Vertica, which is actually an independent data warehouse product, has been integrated into the HP offering. I was particularly impressed with their cloud offerings, including the network switches which go on to building clouds and distributed networks.
What about networking space? What is it that is new? They have now introduced SDN…
This is actually work in progress globally, but what is interesting to note is that HP has actually made rapid progress. They now match the hardware offerings they have along with SDN, which they have been putting in place. Particularly in networking, I would like to note that while 1 gig and 10 gig-network switches have been talked about and have been available, this is the only time I actually saw a single large switch which offers 40 gig and even 100 gig.
What I liked about that large network switch was that the modules were actually pluggable. You can replace 1 GB module by a 10 GB module, or a 40 GB module, or a 100 GB module. Now that makes seminal sense for people who want to grow cloud organically over the next few years. They can keep on adding servers of different capacities and extending the cloud to enhance the number of users which it wants to serve.
What is its relevance to, let’s say, the financial sector in India?
The financial sector has been growing at breakneck speed in the country. The IT infrastructure has also been growing. In fact, I recall that 7 or 10 years ago, institutions like LIC or State Bank of India, which are large institutions, and other mid-size banks planned for their IT infrastructure for the next 5-7 years. They ran out of steam much earlier because the volumes grew much faster than what they had anticipated. I expect the growth story of India to recover in the coming years and, therefore, the financial sector will again start growing exponentially.
The recent recruitments at the level of officers and clerical levels mean that all the banks and the financial institutions are targeting very large growth. Now, that large growth will require substantial IT infrastructure improvement. But, that improvement will not come through establishment of individual servers at different data centres because the data centre consolidation will start happening. So, you will see a whole lot of private clouds getting established in financial institutions. In that context, I think, HP is poised to offer an end-to-end solution – large hardware servers, large network switches and the matching software going right up to the big data analytics using Vertica.
So far the financial sector in India has practically been a Cisco-driven market. How can HP differentiate them and do you think that they have a good chance of getting some share of that market?
In the coming days, when people are required to integrate disparate hardware and disparate software into a single integrated hood, then the clouds of the future will be built; that is how people on the edge would be served. For that purpose, Cisco slightly falls short because you cannot easily integrate Cisco switch with something else.
What about the software front…
There are a lot of new things which are on offer. Unfortunately, unless I go back and do at least a preliminary study, I will not be able to gauge the complete depth to which their software offerings have become significantly better. But I can tell you what my first impression is. I noticed that the software offerings being demonstrated there were not just talked about by HP chief or others. For each offering they actually had a partner, who had, in fact, used it in beta and was convinced of its usability. For each piece of software offering, there were one or more partnering clients who actually had used that technology. That is impressive. That means the technology is actually working. So the software story is, I think, overall phenomenal, but I would be able to comment only after I study it in some greater depth.
HP does not talk as much about their new things as they ought to in my opinion, because without that information the client is not able to make a considered or an informed decision. I speak only for India because I know the scenario there. But, I know for sure that various CIOs in general – and specifically in the financial sector that I know of – are certainly not aware of the things that are being offered
There was this CIO of Facebook, who was talking about some stuff that they have done with HP. What exactly was that? You seem to be quite impressed with that.
You see, Facebook is an extraordinary organisation. You will notice that their CIO, who spoke at the HP Discover, was a very young chap. But what they have built is of a phenomenal size. They have 50 beta bites or more of storage and they add a humongous amount every day. Their entire activity is centered around exploiting relationships. They have one billion people, but they have more than 100-odd billion relationships. A friend knows another friend, who knows another friend, and through that maze they have to actually work on analytics so that the main revenue providers to Facebook, which are the advertising agencies, get the best out of this entire network in entire relationships. Now that analytics calls for extraordinary software and extraordinary efficient implementation of that software and hardware.
Apparently, they are using Vertica for that kind of analytics which is an HP offering integrated with its own backend hardware and the network. If Facebook is using it, that means one of the largest users – one of the users of the largest database and connectivity matrix – is using it. There is no reason why anybody else should not be able to use it with the same ease. That was the impressive part of this.
There was another bank CIO. How do you build a new bank as this seemed to be quite a success story?
You see the new institution, not only this bank but any new institution which will come into the financial sector or for that matter any other player, would not have to repeat the mistakes under the slow growth that has happened over the last 10 years. These new institutions, including new banks, are poised to exploit the current technological offering right from day one. That is what I call the second mover’s advantage. This bank is probably trying to get the second mover’s advantage to the hilt by using the current technologies that are already established and proven. I think they will be able to build their infrastructure more efficiently and more cost-effectively, thereby giving value to both the customers as well as the shareholders.
When Vertica was a small company, it was not possible for it to go out and support other offerings. Now, the way HP has integrated Vertica, there is great support and great emphasis on integrating Vertica with other offerings
In the enterprise space also they had shown some data centres. They are doing very large volumes…
In the enterprise space, if you look at the integrated offering from HP, they need not work only on the edge. In fact, as the cloud would be an enterprise space implementation, the open stack implementation of their cloud will go a long way. I was fascinated because when I was enquiring a few months ago with the local people from IBM, Sun had a great story on storage.
However, if you look at the integrated offering in open space, I think HP now has a better story. I could not decipher the story from the inputs that I had got earlier in India. So, I was very happy that I learnt a lot of new things in Barcelona.
Is it the same story for their enterprise services?
I would say the same story for each and everything because the integrated role of HP offering is not made by any individual company. If you look at enterprise big data space for example, Vertica was well known to researchers and academicians like me for a long time because it came out of phenomenal research.
However, when Vertica was a small company, it was not possible for it to go out and support and so on. Now, the way HP has integrated Vertica, there is great support and there is great emphasis on integrating Vertica with other offerings.
But most of the CIOs that I know in India are not fully aware – they may be aware of Vertica as a name or a good product, but they are not aware of how to integrate Vertica into their businesses. The way the story was told in partners’ conference, ought to be repeated to a large number of people in India.
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