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6/9/2010
11:31 AM
Bob Evans
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.

"I grew up with mainframes and minis, then spent years in the PC business at Apple, so we've all been through all these waves--and there's another one which is tying together two things that people today talk about separately: which is--and I don't like to use this word--but, which is 'the cloud' which is where a lot of the information is gonna live and it's gonna be analyzed and it's gonna be processed. And then there's mobility, which is gonna be the primary use model for people to access it. Those two have to be linked! And we're one of the only companies in the world that can make that connection," Robison said.

"It's pretty straightforward: we're gonna deploy a ton of services. For the past few years, I've talked about this notion of 'everything as a service'--people take it the wrong way: I'm not saying everything is a service but basically I'm saying people are gonna consume IT through a services-based business model more and more. And if you think about all the software that's gonna live in those data centers that's gonna be presented to the user on a mobile device as a service, that's what we're talking about."

Just as SAP has unequivocally committed to the looming primacy of mobile devices and apps and access as the drivers of how business will be conducted in the future, HP is equally committed to that concept and is looking to exploit that opportunity in two ways: first via its acquisition of Palm to acquire not just a smartphone but more importantly the WebOS behind it; and second, via an emerging set of analytical tools that will enable on-the-go workers to manipulate and comprehend and base decisions on those huge sets of data and information, regardless of where they are.

Here's Robison's take on Palm, and then on the power of analytics in the emerging HP strategy:

"If you look at where we're going with the Palm thing--and actually it ties back to some of the things we've done with 3Com and getting the rest of that network built out so that we can have that free flow of information--it's all consistent," Robison said. "Then our announcement today on the web-connected printing stuff--same thing: it's all gonna be connected. Now, the interesting opportunity for us is--especially with all the work we've done with touch and in new user interfaces--we can make a much more consistent and intuitive experience for people across a wide, wide range of products."

But while all that interconnection is great, it's not enough without the ability for users to make sense of and dig deeply into the torrents of data and information made possible by that ubiquitous set of connections.

"The fact that you can get to all that information isn't helpful unless you can do something with it," Robison said. "And the 'do something with it' part is where analytics comes in. And you can do everything from predictive analytics to sophisticated simulation--so we can use finite-element analysis, simulated annealing, sophisticated predictive modeling on people's data sets, you can do search on video, search on photos, facial recognition, we've got all that stuff in there – and basically navigate this sea of information in a way that will give you an advantage. That's the magic--you've got to have the other stuff, but if you don't have the added capabilities in the context of what we're trying to do in this world of information explosion, you're not all the way there.

" I could go down the line, but... that's where the magic is."

Very true. And about 8 months ago, when CEO Mark Hurd defined HP as "the infrastructure company," HP itself wasn't "all the way there" because Hurd at that time wasn't able to weave analytics into the discussion.

So to understand as fully as possible the path being taken by the world's largest IT company, it all, if I may say so, depends on what the definition of "infrastructure" is: if you think that means just hardware and pipes and plumbing, you're missing the boat badly. Because under Hurd and Robison, infrastructure is coming to mean nothing less than the full array of ideas and tools and competitive advantage that the world's largest IT company can deliver to its customers, from servers to analytics and services.

If HP can pull that off, then that will indeed be where the magic is.

Bob Evans is senior VP and director of InformationWeek's Global CIO unit.

To find out more about Bob Evans, please visit his page.

For more Global CIO perspectives, check out Global CIO, or write to Bob at bevans@techweb.com.

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