HP Discover: Whitman goes to war

Summary:HP chief Meg Whitman hopes to draw together the various strands of her IT multinational and focus on services for individual customers, as she leads the troubled company into a war that will see it take on incumbents in cloud computing, databases and storage.

HP chief Meg Whitman hopes to draw together the various strands of her IT multinational and focus on services for individual customers, as she leads the troubled company into a war that will see it take on incumbents in cloud computing, databases and storage.

Against a floor-to-ceiling photo of British soldiers scrambling in a warzone, Whitman told attendees at HP Discover in Las Vegas on Tuesday of the "tectonic shifts" that were occurring in the IT industry, and how HP was planning to respond to it.

HP Whitman keynote HP Discover saw the company's chief, Meg Whitman, adopt a more aggressive tone Credit: Jack Clark

"HP will darken the skies with the magnitude of our response," Whitman said. "After the flooding in Thailand, the tsunami in Japan, or the earthquake in Christchurch, our people were there."

HP is committed to its customers, she said. "Who do you want on your side?," she asked. "Your agenda is our agenda. You are the most important part of our universe."

Whitman outlined HP's strategy, stressing that hardware — which comprises about 70 percent of the company's revenue — was the "foundation" of its ambitious plays in software and services.

HP, like main rival Dell, is looking to make the same kind of transition that IBM made in the late 90s that saw the IT giant move into bespoke services for high-end customers, though Whitman stressed in her speech that HP remained committed to hardware.

"Services... is critical to our future and overall strategy," she said. "We have to be more than the sum of our parts."

HP is making a push into three "strategic areas" she said, which the company sees as being critical to decision makers in major businesses. These areas are cloud, security, and information optimisation.

HP recognises that it is going up against heavy competition, but because of the changes flowing through the industry as people move to the cloud and try to cope with the explosion of 'big data', HP has an opportunity to displace incumbents.

"Longstanding franchises in database, security, and transactional software are in play," she said, alluding to HP's recent acquisitions of Autonomy and Vertica.

Whitman's aggressive rhetoric was mirrored by HP taking a new tack with its product marketing, after it used a deduplication announcement on Monday to argue the superiority of its technology over EMC's — though EMC disputed HP's claims. The motivation for this aggression is that HP sees itself as an "underdog" in storage, David Scott, general manager of HP Storage, told ZDNet UK, and its marketing will reflect that.

HP plans to continue developing its on-premise and public cloud infrastructure, Whitman said, and emphasised the consistency and security of its recently announced public cloud.

Acknowledgement of problems

Whitman's war rhetoric comes at a peculiar time for HP. The company has had a tumultuous, chaotic year, which saw chief executive Leo Apotheker leave, mixed messaging around the company's lucrative Personal Systems Group, an unsuccessful entrance into tablet computing and, most recently, Whitman's announcement that due to global economic shocks HP will get rid of 27,000 employees.

But Whitman has been surprised by how the company has taken her actions.

"The kind of turmoil that HP has had at the top of the company can take a toll on companies, employees, shareholders, but I've been surprised by the resilience of HP people," Whitman said. "HP is a remarkably resilient company"

In closing, Whitman said she believed HP was "truly differentiated" by the breadth of its portfolio, and that it will strive to offer customers integrated solutions that pull in technologies from its portfolio.

"We are here to make it matter for you," she said. "We are aligning our portfolio to deliver what you need most."

Topics: Storage

About

Jack Clark has spent the past three years writing about the technical and economic principles that are driving the shift to cloud computing. He's visited data centers on two continents, quizzed senior engineers from Google, Intel and Facebook on the technologies they work on and read more technical papers than you care to name on topics f... Full Bio

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