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2/16/2011
07:15 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
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Global CIO: As HP Stomps, Software Industry Shakes

The $130 billion giant's moving aggressively into software and is proving it's not afraid to stomp on some toes -- even those of trusted partners.

Two guys out hunting bear sit down for a rest, their guns on the ground beside them. A massive bear crashes through the bushes and the guys run for their lives. After sprinting all-out for a full minute, one guy pants, "I don't know how much longer I can outrun that bear." And the other guy says, "I don't give a hoot about the bear -- I just have to outrun you!"

I get the sense that a lot of software companies in the applications and analytics markets are feeling that way these days as Hewlett-Packard is displaying a ravenous appetite for software, whether through acquisitions (Vertica), partnerships (Microsoft for appliances), or leveraging existing products (choosing to go with its own WebOS instead of Microsoft's Windows Phone 7).

All of those moves -- and there are surely many more to come -- show that HP is actively defending and expanding its own interests even if that self-interest clashes with established relationships in the here and now HP's also showing clear indications that it is putting its own well-being, its own needs, and its own hunger far ahead of any considerations for the feelings and sensitivities of existing partners.

For HP itself, that's a very good thing: over the past couple of years, as other leading IT companies fattened up on software acquisitions in the burgeoning sectors of analytics, BI, data warehousing, and vertical-industry apps, HP focused almost exclusively on its management and infrastructure software portfolio.

Again, not a darned thing wrong with being a big and aggressive player in those area -- but for a company aspiring to top-tier status, management tools and infrastructure technology, no matter how good, are simply not enough in our data-driven world.

But what about HP's new and decidedly more-aggressive intentions toward the software market? Are its recent steps just a random flurry of activity or a sign of bigger and bolder things to come, including more acquisitions, more restructured partnerships, and in general a relentless effort to be considered a powerhouse in 21st-century enterprise applications?

CIOs trying to plan on what the software landscape might look like in mid-2011 have to consider the extraordinary upheaval that's taken place in just the past six months in the relationships involving HP and its two biggest and longest-tenured enterprise partners, Oracle and SAP. Only five months ago, execs from both Oracle and HP renewed their pledges of commitment to each other, only to see those vows blown up just days later when HP hired long-time Oracle nemesis Leo Apotheker as its CEO.

Since then, Oracle has become a bitter rival of HP, and Oracle chief Larry Ellison has given every indication that HP as a partner is dead to him.

Great news for SAP, right? Well, it certainly started out that way, and it might still end up that way, but recently HP, particularly with the acquisition of Vertica, has shown that it wants a big piece of some of SAP's most-strategic businesses, including analytics, BI, and data warehousing.

And that's sure to make things less cozy for HP's relationships with both SAP and Microsoft, says top technology analyst Jason Maynard of Wells Fargo:

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