Arik Hesseldahl

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Microsoft and HP Show Off the Fruits of Their Partnership

About a year ago, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft announced a three-year, $250 million deal to team up around cloud computing. It was a strange announcement chock-full of buzzwords. They said they would “collaborate on an engineering roadmap for data management machines; converged, prepackaged application solutions; comprehensive virtualization offerings; and integrated management tools.” Know what any of that means?

Today’s the day we all find out. The two are showing the first fruits of their combined quarter billion dollars worth of labor. The pair announced they have built four enterprise-focused appliances that they say will combine applications, infrastructure and productivity tools into a single unified system. The first half of this quartet is being announced today, with more to follow.

One is the HP Business Decision Appliance, which is intended to run business intelligence applications. The appliance, they say, greatly reduces the time and effort for companies to deploy and manage business intelligence, which is a fancy way of saying you’re analyzing the data from the operation of your business, and looking for patterns or trends that might not otherwise be apparent. It’s optimized to run for Microsoft’s SQL server database software and its SharePoint collboration software, and takes less than an hour to install, they promise.

The second is the HP Business Data Warehouse Appliance, a data store designed for small- and mid-size companies that they say delivers performance that’s suitable for a big enterprise, but doesn’t require an administrator to run it. It’s a smaller version of the HP Enterprise Data Warehouse Appliance, which the two first previewed in November and is available now.

Next up is a messaging appliance geared toward making it easy to install Microsoft Exchange 2010, the server piece of Outlook, Microsoft’s all-purpose email, calendar and contact software that’s so widely used in companies around the world. Its formal name is the HP E5000 Messaging System for Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, and the two companies say it’s the industry’s first self-contained server for enterprise-class messaging that can be deployed in only a few hours. It comes pre-configured and with “best practices” designed in. The mailboxes are large, centrally archived and available to any device. It will be available in March.

What’s after that? HP and Microsoft are also working on something they call the HP Database Consolidation Appliance, which can bring hundreds of databases into a single appliance. This one will run SQL server and Microsoft’s Hyper-V Cloud.

It’s all about making IT projects easy to deploy, says Mark Potter, HP’s senior vice president and general manager for industry standard servers and software. “It can take anywhere from one to 18 months to roll out a sophisticated service to end users,” Potter told me in an interview yesterday. “About 32 percent of all IT projects are rated a success. It takes our customers a lot of time, planning and risk. We’re trying to bring a solution to the market that does for business applications what Microsoft Office did for desktop productivity.”

Why spend so much to team up? Microsoft and HP think that by 2015 there’s a combined market worth $55 billion for business intelligence, data warehousing, messaging and online transactions, making that quarter billion potentially worth it. Now they just have to prove these appliances can sell.