In The Beginning

I was perusing one of my favorite trade pubs, The Register, and noticed an article about the new HP OneView systems management, which reminded me that I was going to write a blog on it at some point. Further perusing the article gave me even more incentive to get down to penning this post, since I really think that this is one of the rare occasions where the usually excellent staff of “El Reg” allowed themselves to get carried away with their enviable witticisms and just plain missed the point.

The Register article seemed to dismiss HP OneView as some sort of cosmetic trick, with references to things like “dressing up software in easy to use user interfaces”. My perception is completely the opposite — dressing up software in easy to use interfaces is exactly what is needed in a world drowning in IT complexity, and I believe that HP OneView is a significant development in systems management tools, both useful to HP customers today and probably setting a significant bar for competitive offerings as well.

What It Is                                                                                                   

HP OneView, approximately four years in the making and designed with a significant amount of serious customer input, is a systems management tool that attempts to turn the usual device-centric management interfaces into task-centric activities, providing intelligence and automation aids for a range of common management tasks such as discovery, deployment,  updating, etc. In addition to the different approach to managing devices — which, as The Register points out, is the end result — HP has also wrapped the capabilities of HP OneView in an interface that has clearly drawn from modern consumer electronics and ended up with what I think is one of the most visually appealing and semi-intuitive user interfaces in existence for a product of this complexity.

HP OneView provides a wide set of functions, including discovery, monitoring, and management of HP G7 and Gen8 servers (with portfolio expansion promised for the future) and includes extensive analytics and template-based automation capabilities. Today the product is limited to HP servers, but HP has indicated that future versions of HP OneView will also begin to address storage and networking, and that HP OneView will eventually subsume all Insight Control functionality.

Why It’s Exciting

As you can imagine, at Forrester we see a LOT of product presentations and demos. HP OneView was the first systems management product since my introduction to the Cisco UCS Manager that really compelled me with both its capabilities and its interface (the IBM PureFlex and Cloud Smart Start also gets a very honorable mention). The initial screens are minimalist, informative, and invite the user to take action. The discovery process was fast, fluid, and organized the way an admin would want it if they were looking for either a specific inventory item via search or for a general discovery of the environment. The flow from discovery to monitoring to potential action was fluid, and the overall feel of the environment was smooth and easy to navigate.

This last point is critical — as IT complexity becomes the limiting factor in many shops, the advantage of a tool that makes it easy for admins to accomplish their tasks cannot be underestimated. I remain convinced that at least part of Cisco’s success with UCS has been rooted in a management console that was much more capable and easier to navigate than its peers at the time. HP’s OneView has the potential to provide the same kind of transformational experience to managers of current HP G7 and Gen8 servers going forward. It has the ability to bring order and structure out of chaotic environments, consolidate reporting and analysis, and to provide a platform for extensive template-based automation for repeated deployments, bulk updates, and other repeatable actions.

The only drawbacks, other than the need for some track record, are the fact that it is limited today to the latest two generations of HP servers, and that the necessary network and storage extensions are still a work in progress. I suspect that HP will succumb to the temptation to first deal with their own networking and storage, but would be well served to communicate and execute a strategy that was inclusive of Cisco, EMC, and NetApp, at a minimum.

All in all, HP OneView is possibly the most significant systems management product announcement that I have seen in a long time, and I cannot come up with a good reason why users of HP’s newer servers should not be evaluating it.