Last year was a good one for HP's server division, so when HP's VP of enterprise service and storage Paul Miller hit town, we took the opportunity to gain insight on how the company plans to build on that momentum in 2008.

Q: How do you see HP differentiating itself this year? A: I think what we are seeing is a change in the marketplace and HP is the best position to take advantage of it obviously. It’s no longer about just servers or storage; it’s about infrastructure and blades is probably the best positioning of that.

There's convergence happening in the marketplace, convergence of servers and storage, convergence in mission-critical x86 industry-standard devices, and the convergence of the interconnection fabrics. Those three things are starting to change the known culture of the environment.

When I say that it’s changing from a server storage to a infrastructure sale, it’s becoming a more complicated environment. We are seeing less reverse auctions, we are seeing more consultative selling because - one of the customers yesterday, his main problem is his datacentre is out of power and cooling.

You’re starting at the datacentre walls of the infrastructure and breaking it down and instead of you leading with the specs - all slots and watts - it’s the last thing we talk about. It starts with the power and cooling, it starts with interconnect then it goes down to the management infrastructure. We’re spending all our time talking about the infrastructure, not really spending time talking about specific in how many processors or how many slots are in a box anymore.

Q: So datacentre managers are saying they have a power envelope I have to work within, but I need to do twice as much? A: Exactly, that’s one of them, or "here’s my datacentre it’s completely out of power and cooling, how can you help me put more into it so I don’t have to build out their datacentre which is a tens of millions of dollars proposition."

It starts off with "I’m wasting time, my team no longer has time to go off and do simple maintenance and simple tasks. How can you simplify the tasks because I’m just in execution mode, I don’t have time to go off and invent and do new things, I’ve got to put out new applications." They want to spend their time on bringing new capabilities to their customers, not maintaining existing capabilities.

Q: But if systems are more reliable now then they were, what are they spending that extra time doing? A: It’s about software upgrades, it’s about changes. This is why I think blades have been so successful because we’ve simplified how you change servers and storage.

If you look at it, what’s interesting is virtualisation. They spent a lot of time last year bringing out virtualisation. It used to be that the average server utilisation was around 20 percent. Virtualisation raised it maybe to 40 percent is what we’re seeing, so it hasn’t done everything it needs to do. They’re spending time in getting more utilisation out of my systems, so you’ll see us be very aggressive in working with customers in building out products that help them increase that utilisation.

Q: Just to go down that road for a second, how far do they need to go because then obviously you need some overhead? I mean you don’t want to run everything at 80 percent do you? A: What you want is an environment where you are running everything as close to 100 percent as possible quite frankly, and 100 percent means with your overhead. The problem is how do you plan for that overhead, how do you make sure you have the right amount of overhead? And an ideal scenario says you have just enough capacity and you’re shifting it around so that you’re able to achieve that, that’s the way you are going to get more and more into your datacentre.