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Global CIO: Hewlett-Packard CEO Hurd's Strategy: The Infrastructure Company

Promising that HP can combine massive scale and innovation, CEO Hurd says it will separate itself from IBM and others by having a complete end-to-end line of hardware, software, and services.

The world's largest IT company has proclaimed a strategic position for itself with a massive commitment to an end-to-end hardware portfolio that Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd said lies at the heart of HP's right to claim, above all other competitors in the IT business, the mantle of "the infrastructure company."

Hurd's articulation of his strategy offers a sharp and striking philosophical contrast in how the world's two largest broad-line IT companies view the future evolution of the business-technology world: Hurd says he sees an extensive hardware stack as indispensable to the strategic deployment of an interlaced hardware-software-services strategy, whereas IBM CEO Sam Palmisano has quite clearly said—and his actions have shown—that IBM is willing and even eager to bypass significant chunks of the hardware market in order to focus more intently on what IBM says have proven to be the higher-value, higher-margin, and higher-growth markets of software and services.

(For more details and analysis of key topics mentioned in this column, be sure to check out the "Recommended Reading" list at the end, including, "Global CIO: Why HP Must Articulate Its Enterprise Strategy" and "Global CIO: An Open Letter To Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd.")

It was fascinating to watch Hurd, in a keynote interview/address at last week's Gartner Symposium, steadfastly refuse to use IBM's name while he was clearly referring on more than one occasion to IBM as being little more than a dabbler in the hardware space, a lack of commitment that he said would prevent IBM from being able to deliver broad and high-scale value to its global customers.

Conversely, Hurd extolled HP's approach of driving hardware, software, services, and networking into a scalable and deeply interlinked stack that gives HP not only the right to bill itself as "the infrastructure company" but more importantly the services breadth and technological depth to handle customer projects that no other IT company can manage.

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Asked if HP's end-to-end hardware portfolio plus a broad set of services tied together with HP's Business Technology optimization infrastructure software means that HP's strategic vision is to become the infrastructure company, Hurd offered this in reply:

"That's right. That is accurate. Because for us—you had these stats up here: in the next four years, twice as much data as you have today. Double the digitization every 18 months. Double the text messages volume in the next three years. The infrastructure that has to support all that content—all that content that has to be processed, stored, moved, shared, visualized—and, we love it when it's printed—and we like to have the consumer and the enterprise services to support those ecosystems," Hurd said. "That ecosystem I just described is HP."

Hurd, frequently amplifying his comments with sketches on a large pad of paper on an easel to which he returned and toward which he gestured frequently during his high-energy and animated discussion, said that laying claim to such a broad product set also gives HP the responsibility to constantly cannibalize its own established offerings—a role that he says underscores HP's spot atop the infrastructure world and that also must include related services.

"I think you should expect us to interrupt all of these infrastructure markets with innovation over the course of the next several years, and in the end be the leader from an infrastructure perspective, but that's defined as services and products simultaneously," Hurd said.

"We believe we bring an integrated stack so we can service customers from data centers anywhere on the planet. We can now give remote capabilities to back up a data center," he said, adding that HP can deliver those on the basis of capital expenses or operating expenses, whichever clients desire.

His interviewers—Gartner vice presidents David Cearley and Donna Scott—then told Hurd the strategy he was outlining sounded like IBM's strategy, and began to ask him about that before Hurd cut them off with his answer. Here's his answer as the first of four sections on key topics from Hurd: first, his view of IBM: second, HP's recent business transformation that incorporated a monumental IT transformation; third, his views of cloud computing; and fourth, his plans for HP's software business. Here are Hurd's blunt views on IBM:

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