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6/9/2010
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Bob Evans
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Global CIO: Hewlett-Packard's Missing Link Is Analytics

The oncoming information explosion can bury you or provide unique competitive advantage. HP says the key is analytics.

Declaring that information will be "the most important natural resource for the next several decades," executive VP Shane Robison says Hewlett-Packard is developing a range of predictive analytics and modeling tools to help customers not just manage but exploit today's information explosion.

As the company's unfolding strategy interlaces its unmatched product scope with its trimmed-down but more-capable Enterprise Services business (the former EDS), Robison--who serves as both chief technology and chief strategy officer--says the latest addition to the HP solution stack will be a set of analytics technologies and capabilities that will help CIOs harness the power of that information explosion rather than being blown to bits by it.

In a conversation this week at HP's Palo Alto headquarters, Robison laid out the latest steps in the company's unfolding strategy in the context of five key points:

1) The inevitability of the cloud as a compelling enterprise IT model;

2) The rise of mobility as the dominant computing platform;

3) The momentous shift from IT as productivity agent to communications & collaboration optimizer;

4) The stunningly steep increase in the volume of information that's being produced--and the fact that we're only in the early stages of that surge; and

5) The power of analytics to help organizations seize competitive advantage by being able to exploit the power of that information explosion.

"I think there's a clear argument to be made that the most important natural resource for the next several decades is information," Robison said. "We all know it's exploding, we all know there's this massive growth of information--it's changing from structured to unstructured in lots of different formats, and the challenge people have is managing it, accessing it, creating it, sharing it, distributing it, and doing all the things we need to do.

"I would suggest that the companies, the governments, the regions who can attack that most effectively are gonna lead."

And so HP is looking to be the company whose products and know-how become indispensable to the attack plans of the various constituents, and Robison is confident that HP's broad array of products and services--from Converged Infrastructure to management software to services to analytics--will force the entire industry to redefine the entire concept of "infrastructure."

"We want to be the information technology infrastructure leader--and that doesn't mean we're plumbers and all we're doing is pipes," Robison said. "We do the applications for mobility for information access, predictive analytics, all the stuff you may have seen in the Labs, and then because we have the whole portfolio, we can integrate that user experience in a way that's more intuitive, simpler--basically makes the complexity of the underlying technology transparent to the end user, whether it's an enterprise customer or a consumer. That's what we're doing."

In a day-long series of meetings at HP culminating in the discussion with Robison, it became clear that even as HP is looking to recast the boundaries of the infrastructure world, the company is betting far more aggressively on the power and potential return of its corporate IP in intelligence (analytics) and expertise (services) as the high-value differentiators that will drive its growth in the future.

So while HP's infrastructure "stuff "--servers, storage, networking, PCs, etc.--is the foundation, the big house HP is looking to build must showcase its less-tangible IP because the business-technology world has moved away from a relentless focus on productivity to one centered on collaboration and communications.

"Services is really just a different business model for consuming IT," Robison said, "End-user services, like the things we all run on our smartphones, is no different than that. You're accessing information. The other sort of underlying and fairly fundamental change, I think, is the primary use people have for IT has changed. So if you go mainframe to minicomputer to PCs--those were all platforms that were focused on productivity: either personal productivity or enterprise productivity: spreadsheets, word processors, all that stuff.

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"We've actually had a fundamental change in that most of the things that you and I do today--we still do those [productivity] things, but it's a much smaller part of what we do. Most of what we do today is about communications and collaboration--and people miss that, because it's a little bit subtle--but it is a fundamental change.

"And it changes the compute requirements, the storage requirements, the way you think about and use information technology--and communications and collaboration, I would argue today, is far larger in terms of what people are doing than the productivity space. Which means productivity hasn't been shrinking--this other one is just a whole new way of things to do," Robison said while lifting his hand high above the table to show the growth he expects from that communications and collaboration opportunity.

Ergo the cloud-mobility connection that Robison feels HP is uniquely qualified to deliver:

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