Rethinking the UPoE value proposition

First, full disclosure: I am an HP Networking employee. All of the opinions comments and general snarkiness in this blog are my own though. I am writing this from my own personal perspective, not as an HP employee, but I think it's important that anyone reading this knows that I do have some skin in the game, at least in the big picture.

 

So a couple of weeks ago, I was having a conversation with someone at an HP event about VDI, UPoE, Thin Clients etc.. and I said “Yes! We've been talking to customers about the total solutions for Months! ”

Not many people realize how truly broad the HP portfolio is when you look at the entire company. So we have been talking for months about the ability to put together a complete VDI solution from HP.

Basically, you pick your flavour of Virtualization and then pick the appropriate Virtual System configuration. For those of you who don't know, Virtual System is an HP validated configuration specifically for different virtualization workloads. You do have options, either Xenserver on Hyper-V or VMWare View.

Then you can choose the appropriate HP Networking switch for your infrastructure, then you just need to attach one of the HP Thin Clients to connect your users to your applications.

So what does this have to do with rethinking the value prop of UPoE. When I first saw the 60 Watts per port blades that Cisco released on the 4500E last year, I thought

” Wow… I wonder how hot those cables will be?”

After I got past that though, I started thinking about what applications or devices would start to appear in the market to take advantage of these new capabilities? There were some examples out there, but I've noticed something interesting in the last year: Devices are using LESS power, not MORE power.

Do you remember when 802.11n access points first came out? They were one of the first devices that actually justified powering up to 803.3at devices. If you wanted 11n, you needed either power injectors or AT switches. Fast forward and today you can buy 3×3 MIMO with 3 spacial stream access points that will work on 11af Poe ports @ 15.4 watts or less. That's right, they will work on the same switches that you've probably had for years. No need to upgrade your infrastructure to support a new device. Just buy the new access points, get more throughput on your wireless and life is good.

The HP t410 All-in-one Thin Client

So a couple of weeks later, I was invited to a meeting with someone from the personal systems group division of HP to talk about how we had been evangelizing the products and then amazingly… he offered me a HP t410 AIO unit to play with!

I, of course, said

Heck yeah!!!

One week later, a couple of customer meetings and a skeptical twitter conversation, and it seems there's a lot of interest on the t410 at the moment. Mostly around the disbelief that anyone could get an all-in-one Thin client to actually run below 15.4 watts!

So I have collected some pictures of the experience to show you how easy this thing was to setup which was SILLY easy. I didn't include a picture of the box, but I think we've all seen an 18″ monitor and the link above also had some nice pictures of the unit. It's got a small foot print and a nice screen.

So without further ado…

1) Here's a picture of the Unit's Model Name. ( This was the last picture I took, but it's the one I have with the model name ).

Image 12

2) After I took it out of the box and plugged it into an old 3Com 4120 9 port PoE switch ( it's what I had ).

I got the following login page. From what I've read, if I had a “real” vdi solution that was broadcasting it's services, it would automatically detect the connection type and then connect to the server broadcasting the available sessions I think – No VDI in my home lab ( yet ) though so I get to manually select which type of VDI I would like to connect to. ( I chose RDP7 for a window 2008R2 server)

Image

3) It now prompts me for the Server name or address.

Image 1

4) I put in my username and password. ( I didn't need the other options ) and seconds later, I'm logged in.

Image 3

 

Pretty cool, right? (I'll save you the screen cap of a windows server desktop. ). I didn't get to test out the internal speakers since the VM I was connecting against had no sound cards.

 

So what about the PoE part? This is the awesome part.

Screen Shot 2012 09 28 at 10 10 54 PM

 

yup. That's right 10.6 watts while fully operating. Max of 13 watts, Average of 10.9 watts. Can you see why I question UPoE? Somehow the guys in the PC division at HP actually managed to put together a full all-in-one thin client with monitor and left JUST enough power for the keyboard, mouse, and the speakers as well ( I presume on the last one, never tested it ).

Caveats

Are the tradeoffs here? Of course! I've only playing with this for a few hours now, but so far. It's great. No issues at all. According to the data sheet, there are a few things that you will sacrifice in PoE mode though.

Specifically, there's the speed drop from Gig to 10/100. But in the case of a thin client, most of the streams are less than 2Mb +/-, so the whole speed drop is PROBABLY not going to cause anyone any issues.

The other thing, which I haven't experienced, is that the screen brightness will actually come down in the event that there's not enough power budget left on the switch to be able to fully power the unit.

 

Final Thoughts

This is a nice unit. It's got a small foot print. Nice screen. The out-of-box setup was extremely easy and the fact that it only draws 13 watts of power ( I'm using the max draw value I saw ) is absolutely AMAZING to me. It would have been easy for HP to start making Thin Clients that consumed more and more power to try and drive customers into purchasing new switches. Instead, HP threw some engineers at the problem and instead came out with a product that will work in customers existing environments without a costly upgrade.

As an HP Networking pre-sales engineer, I have to say it would be nice to have another reason for our customers to upgrade their switches, but as a human being, it makes me proud to work for a company that does the right thing for their customer and the environment.

 

 

BYOD – The other implications

WARNING – MIDNIGHT POST.  I’ll come back and fix this in a couple of days, but it’s been banging around in my head and I needed to get it out.

 

So I’m going to get a little controversial here. I’m actually hoping to have my thought process attacked on this one. Hopefully, not personally attacked, but I guess that’s the danger of blogging.

 

Open Disclosure: I don’t work for Cisco.  I guess that’s why I can write this piece and think this through as I’ve got nothing to lose here. I’m sure someone will point and say “Hey! HP GUY!” but I truly don’t feel that whom I work for is going to change the power of this argument.  But because some people get wrapped around those things, I wanted to state that loud and clearly. I am an HP employee. This blog is purely my own thoughts and musings and i no way represents that of my employer in any way shape or form. 🙂

 

So I was at HP discover last week and had a chance to catch up with a TON of customers and partners, as well as have some great conversations with the independent bloggers. To be honest, those are my favorite, because they are the last people to drink the koolaid.If you are trying to convince them of anything, you better have a well constructed argument and proof to support it.

 

So the other topic on everyone’s minds was of course BYOD. Bring Your own Device. Other than Openflow and SDN, I think this is one of the most talked about waves that’s hitting our industry right now. Of course we had the usual discussions about access control, DHCP finger printing, user-agent finger printing, dot1x , web portal, etc… but we also got into some VERY interesting discussions about the greater implications of BYOD.

Now keep in mind, I’m an old voice guy too. My voice books are so old, they’re actually blue, and not that snazzy purple color that you kids use to color coordinate your bookshelves. I know what the SEP in the Callmanagler stands for, and I remember CCM when it shipped on CDs. ( yes, it actually did kids ).

 

So in some ways, I feel like I’m watching my past wash away when I type the following words.

Voice is dead.

Now it might be a few years before everyone realizes it, but there are a lot of forces going on in our industry right now and they seem to all be pointing to a place where handsets are obsolete.

The argument goes something like this

 

1) BYOD is here and it’s not going away.

2) If BYOD is here, then employees are probably teleworking and using their cel phones.

3) If customers are teleworking and using their cel phones, they don’t need desk phones.

4) If customers don’t need desk phones…. they don’t need desk phones.

 

The implications of this really started to hit me and I did a self check and realized, I don’t remember the last time I used a “normal” handset. I work out of a home office. I use a cel phone with unlimited calling.

Not to mention the fact that HP has hooked us up with Microsoft Lync, which means plugin the headset and escalate that IM call to voice or video whenever I need it. and NO handset involved. Oh.. and the Lync client for the iPhone was released too.

The last time I looked, this was an approx $1-2B business for Cisco, so I’m fairly sure they don’t want anyone to realize that investing in new handsets is probably not the wisest move right now. This is a Billion dollar market that they are going to have to replace with something else, or continue to milk it for as long as they can.

Now to be honest, there’s always the Call Center argument which I’ll try and stop right now. Call Centers are not going away. There’s always going to be a business need. Voicemail systems? They might just become part of the cloud, I don’t know. But traditional handset deployments? I think maybe people just haven’t realized they have been throwing money away.

 

On with the rambling midnight logic!

 

The extension to this logic is that if we’re done with handsets, then

why do we need all this POE everywhere?

 

To be honest, I think the only phone that every used anywhere close to the 15.4 watts of 802.3af was the Cisco 7970 series. Most other phones used 2-3 watts, maybe up to 7 with a speaker phone on. So the whole ” I need all 24 ports running full 802.3af class 3 devices at the same time ” is a something that never actually happened ( or at least I’ve never seen it ). 

Now we’re seeing RFP disqualifiers requiring 740 watts per switch ( full 15 watts on all 48 ports ), and I’m sure we will soon be seeing new models coming out with 1,440 watts of POE+ power!!! ( 30 watts per port on a 48 port switch ).

Now POE is an enabling tool, we still need it for access points at the least, but other than that? I can’t name one practical business tool that runs on POE right now that would not qualify as a corner case.

And I don’t see anyone plugging in 24 or 48 access points into the same switch.

 

I would love a sanity check here guys. Is it just me? I’m making an informed prediction throw a crystal ball. Feel free to let me know if my ball’s broken. 🙂

 

@netmanchris