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3/15/2011
03:43 PM
Doug Henschen
Doug Henschen
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Is There Enough Software To Knit HP's Strategy Together?

The short answer is no, but with a few deeper partnerships and key acquisitions, it could become much more than the sum of its parts.

Embracing The Cloud

HP's plan to support hybrid cloud deployments sounds reminiscent of Microsoft's script. In fact, HP chief strategist and CTO Shane Robison said, "We're all in on the cloud."

Here's where HP's extensive portfolio of IT operations, systems management, monitoring, and security software comes into play (read Charles Babcock's analysis in "HP Goes All In On The Cloud" ). But the current model for moving into the cloud seems to be to pick the application first, and then let those application providers (Salesforce, Microsoft, NetSuite, etc.) provide the infrastructure.

As more pieces end up in the cloud, there's a greater need for generic platform capabilities and infrastructure, but here, too, vendors including Amazon, Salesforce, and Microsoft are ahead of the game with EC2, Force.com, Database.com, Azure, and so on.

And is there really much of a hardware opportunity for HP in delivering cloud infrastructure? As CEO Marc Benioff points out, Salesforce runs only 2,000 (Dell) servers to support its 90,000-plus customers. Microsoft might use HP hardware in its data center, but that won't be much comfort as it helps customers move Exchange, SharePoint, Dynamics CRM, and other software deployments out of separate (frequently HP-powered) data centers and into the Microsoft cloud.

So what's going to run on HP's hybrid backbone? There's the software still running on premises and software delivered more flexibly via private clouds (on premises at HQ), but then what?

Bottom line: Another case where we'll have to see what develops.

In Search Of Analytics

As HP's lone notable software acquisition in recent months, Vertica was heavily promoted during the HP Summit. I'd say oversold. Vertica is a modern and capable database, and it can support analysis of unstructured information (such as e-mail messages and social network interactions) as well as structured information. But Vertica is a platform for analytics, not an analytic software provider.

HP demonstrated a real-time auto rental pricing scenario yesterday centered on a soon-to-be-HP-powered Vertica appliance, but I'd observe that you would need data integration software, like that from HP partner Informatica, to load that system. And you'd need the BI and analytics software of a MicroStrategy or SAS to do the reporting and analytics piece -- that is, unless you want to start from scratch, which most customers don't. Dynamic pricing is something SAS has had in its portfolio for years.

At IBM, the mirror purchase to Vertica was Netezza, though the latter has a bigger customer base and a deeper history of supporting analytics on top of the platform. But that was a final piece for IBM; it had also acquired Cognos, SPSS, ILog, Coremetrics, and Unica to back up its claim to being an analytics powerhouse.

Bottom line: HP has a long way to go on the analytics front, and one hopes this will be one area where it's prepared to acquire software (or build services if, as HP suggests, it's going to favor cloud approaches over legacy software).

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