HP faces down youthful tech upstarts: Don't judge us by our looks

Having a 'Benjamin Button' moment

Networking

The fire seems to have dimmed a little here, and HP does not have a perceived lead in software-defined networking. Why did it not buy Arista? While the company deserves credit for its silicon photonics activities, what is going to happen here and now? Neither Dell nor IBM are anywhere in networking. Of the mainstream server/system leaders, only HP has its own networking capabilities.

Software-defined networking is THE key to unlock Cisco's proprietary networking dominance and HP, it appears, has not grasped that key strongly enough. Not yet at least.

This is, like storage and networking, another market which is beating off young startups and incumbents like HP need to learn how to embrace disruption and lead it. Say what you will about EMC, but in this respect, and in our IT industry, we'd assert it has no equal at detecting incoming disruption and taking it on board. HP, and other incumbents, could learn from that.

Services

HP's services organisation is challenged and El Reg's storage desk thinks there is a question to be answered.

Is it an arm of HP's enterprise systems group, dedicated to the implementation and integration of HP's enterprise systems into customer's operations? Or it it an independent services organisation looking at HP products as just another supplier's kit it has to deal with. Does HP look for real synergy between its services and its enterprise products or for non?

If the former than enterprise services should be part of enterprise systems. If the latter then it should be independent and report directly to the CEO.

Cloud

HP Helion marketing from HP website

Helion is HP's big cloud bet in a market where Amazon and Google, closely followed by Microsoft, are the big three. HP cannot build out its own cloud at that scale, not having the resources and being too late to enter that particular party. But it does have its customer base and experience at entering the cloud market, albeit with undramatic results. It has a base that needs cloud services, experience of how not to do it, and Amazon, Google and Microsoft's activities to concentrate its mind.

OpenStack provides a cloud stack and HP has moved on quickly from offering its own top-down public cloud and making the infrastructure-as-a-service software technology available to partners instead, vastly increasing its likely success rate with the small and medium enterprise customers of its channel partners.

Stepping back

Let's step out now and look at HP from a distance. Meg Whitman is making a great job of re-shaping and recasting the company. But is she just another five-year occupant of HP's revolving executive door or something more than that: a Carly Fiorina that doesn't get forced out, a Mark Hurd but without the cost-cutting and limited technology vision? And what about the succession?

It's fascinating stuff and we can't answer these questions, but HP has a technology vision and a set of enterprise-focused execs reporting to the CEO who could succeed her. The company is in a much better shape than it has been. It wants to remain a major player across the board, and is not willing to vacate hardware areas in pursuit of a services and software vision on the one hand, or opportunistically base everything on commodity hardware and catch-up software acquisitions on the other.

The company now has a sense of direction, a shot at redeveloping its own engineering prowess, a series of bets underway in the cloud, storage and servers, and seasoned execs hungry for more. HP can make it. Wish it luck. ®

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