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3/14/2011
08:23 PM
Fritz Nelson
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Apotheker Takes The Stage, Paints An HP Cloud Vision

Hewlett-Packard crafted a media and analyst summit where it envisioned the company at the center of cloud, connectivity and software, providing the enabling technology and services on top. New company captain Leo Apotheker, who has been traveling the globe talking to business customers and employees, was expected to talk about bringing HP back to its roots: Innovation, R&D, and engineering, perhaps with a misguided desire for the company to be as hip as Apple. Despite a reliance on buzz words (o




Talk about context aware -- HP offered this lovely, and slightly freaky vision: part astronaut, part baby. Guesses as to what this means? That cloud is in its infancy? That astronauts were once babies? That babies were once astronauts? That Apotheker is a crazy Frenchman? That HP has multiple personality disorder?


Talk about context aware -- HP offered this lovely, and slightly freaky vision: part astronaut, part baby. Guesses as to what this means? That cloud is in its infancy? That astronauts were once babies? That babies were once astronauts? That Apotheker is a crazy Frenchman? That HP has multiple personality disorder?


At the helm for a mere four months after a rocky tenure at software provider, SAP, until now Apotheker mostly kept a low profile -- or as low a profile as the head of the biggest technology company can keep -- touring the world, listening to customers, addressing the vast HP employee base, and hinting that the company had lost its way and that it would return to its innovative ways.


At times, Apotheker's presentation looked like one that any leader could have provided, reminding the audience of the company's size and breadth, if not its dominance across a variety of markets. Clearly being a market leader isn't going to be enough: in the very same venue in which Apple hosted the unveiling of its iPad 2 only two weeks ago, HP struggled to fill the room. Arguably what HP announced will have a greater impact on the enterprise.




Apotheker set up the rest of the day with this little chart, which provided a view of the "stack" as HP sees it. Perhaps this was partly a poke at Oracle, its nemesis (later in the day Apotheker would talk about Coopetition with Oracle); Oracle has touted its stack approach to big data. However, HP sees these systems as an integrated stack as well, and indeed, provides many of the enabling stack components. Its vision involves not only providing that stack, but applying it to structured and unstructured data, and providing it as a secure platform.


HP's strategy includes the cloud as one of its key tactical advantages. Today, its strength is in the data center, but it clearly wants to move beyond that, as an enabler of hybrid clouds, and in doing so, it wants to provide what it called a "seamless, secure, context aware" ecosystem. It wasn't until later in Apotheker's keynote that the "context aware" part became apparent.


The big news from the HP Summit was HP's stated intention to offer cloud services, infrastructure as a service and platform as a service. It will also provide what it called an open marketplace, with an app store for consumers and a catalog of apps and services for the enterprise.


HP's acquisition of Vertica was an interesting one, putting HP clearly on a path to providing analytics services. Apotheker later said that the deal will finally be approved in the second quarter, and that solutions would be forthcoming, including analytics as a service.




Vertica provides the infrastructure behind powerful real-time analytics. HP provided some examples of where the technology is already making a difference.


On stage, HP demonstrated a half-rack of Vertica; no Watson, mind you, but with 192 cores, the end goal is real-time analytics.


In HP's on-stage demonstration, it showcased a car rental application that processed data like weather, customer driving tendencies and gas prices to determine a real-time pricing offer. This, HP said, was what context aware was all about.


HP CFO Cathie Lesjak gave a soup-to-nuts look at the HP portfolio of acquisitions, an impressive lineup of infrastructure, security, management software, applications, and devices.


Although the sometimes-feisty CEO repeatedly told his audience that what he presented was HP's direction and vision, he was hounded for more details -- how would HP compete with the likes of Amazon? How and when specifically would it turn its data centers into these new cloud offerings? Details. Details. Apotheker paried with his audience, at times politely refusing to answer questions he wasn't ready to (sacrebleu!), combating someone who suggested he had offered only platitudes, and even taking aim at competitors: he painted IBM as playing catchup with HP, not the other way around.

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