Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Zynstra are bringing to market a jointly developed solution dubbed Easy Connect that provides SMBs with a fully managed set of IT services delivered in a single appliance-like system, available with full support for a simple monthly or annual fee.
The HPE ProLiant EC200a Managed Hybrid Server will be available initially in the UK and US from 28 April, and is the first in a planned family of Easy Connect Series appliances aimed at giving SMBs a turnkey, on-premise solution that delivers email, file sharing and other services without the customer having to worry about configuration and maintenance.
The EC200a is best described as a small private cloud in a box designed to deliver all the IT services required by a company of five to about 50 users. The "hybrid" part comes from the fact that it is ready to integrate with public cloud services such as Office 365 and Microsoft Azure.
The Easy Connect appliances are designed to be delivered and supported by HPE resellers and systems integrator partners local to the customer. Prices start at $10 (£7) per user per month, depending on the services required.
"SMB is now a huge target market for HPE, and we see it as a great growth opportunity. IT is changing the landscape for all businesses, but in particular for SMBs, and we believe we can capitalise on that by working really closely with our partner base," said Matt Harris, UK and Eire country manager for HPE's server division.
Harris explained that SMBs want the benefits of public cloud consumption, but often struggle with the technical challenges, or the applications they want are not available, or they may just not be comfortable putting their data into the public cloud.
"So what we've designed is something that offers all of the benefits and convenience of cloud consumption, but with local on-premise control and performance in a customer's IT environment," Harris said.
The EC200a is a new small form factor server design from HPE that closely resembles a compact desktop PC. It can be mounted in a desktop stand (see image), as small businesses may not have a separate server room, or on a wall mounting.
The appliance is based on an Xeon D-1518 processor with up to 64GB of memory and up to 8TB of disk storage, backed by an NVMe PCI Express SSD accelerator. Additional storage can be provided via a bolt-on expansion unit, while the business can scale up as it grows by clustering multiple EC200a units if required, according to HPE.
But the key part of the solution is the Zynstra software. This is a platform for running a number of virtual machines providing essential services such as Microsoft Active Directory, file and print services, security services such as a firewall, and any other functions the customer may require, such as an Exchange email server or SQL Server database. Items such as the latter two will add to the subscription charges, in order to cover the software licence fee.
However, the customer does not need to know about this, because most of the complexity is hidden. The reseller installs the EC200a on site and takes responsibility for monitoring and maintenance, most of which can be performed remotely through a management console.
The customer is provided with a dashboard that displays status information and enables a local administrator to easily add or remove users from the system as employees join or leave, rather than having to ask the service provider.
"The HPE ProLiant EC200a Managed Hybrid Server is something really different; we think it's the server for the cloud era," said Brian Buggy, co-founder and vice president of products at Zynstra.
"It's a technology that provides the ability for managed service providers to deliver very sophisticated capabilities to customers, and allows the customer to focus on their business and the applications they want to run instead of focusing on infrastructure."
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