HP merger gets cautious thumbs-up

ENSA@Work: Visitors to the ENSA@Work event seem to appreciate the merger of Compaq and HP, although issues such as support and training will continue to test it

Visitors to Hewlett-Packard's ENSA@Work event in Amsterdam seemed broadly in favour of the HP-Compaq merger, although some people felt it was a merger that started at the surface and had yet to drive all the way through service and support organisations. The merger was all-but-complete in November, implied HP senior vice president of network storage solutions Howard Elias in a keynote, when he announced that sales plans for both companies had been harmonised in November (after negotiations with workers' councils in some countries). However, the merger of sales and technology is the easiest part of the process. "Much of what has been done in this merger has been done to preserve market confidence in the short term," said Jon Collins, an associate at analyst Quocirca. "In the next six months to a year, we can decide if it is the correct thing to do." Collins believes there will be growth in some areas, such as virtualisation, this year. Compaq users, especially those with a Digital Equipment heritage seemed particularly pleased, as the event gave them strong new AlphaServer products and a clear migration message. "HP is more positive about OpenVMS than Compaq was," said Jacco Vroegop of channel partner InfoProducts of the Netherlands. Compaq had not been good at enterprise servers, although its storage strategy (which started the ENSA event five years ago) was strong and a good fit with Hewlett-Packard. "However," he added, "certification and training is a blur right now. HP can't give a straight answer about how to re-certify." A "100 percent Digital" Netherlands-based user in the food industry, who wished to remain anonymous, said the merger did not yet feel complete. "In service and support you still have people from HP and Compaq." He was very happy with the technology strategy, as he had completed his Alpha investment, and was now buying all Microsoft/Intel servers. "We've forgotten Digital already," he said. "Merging services is harder than merging product lines," said Dr J AJ van Leunen, spokesman for the Dutch branch of the HP user group, Interex. "In services there are long contracts to be supported." But he was optimistic that services and support could be harmonised in a few months. In training, Dr van Leunen believes that the new HP will clarify re-certification and use upgrades on its certification to create evangelists for its migration strategy. "MPE [HP's proprietary operating system] is fading out. To stay as a certified MPE consultant would be a bad move. MPE consultants should plan to help their customers move across." Interex itself was mostly pleased with the merger from its own point of view, said Dr van Leunen. "We have doubled in size," he said. "However, in some European countries where there are stakeholders in several groups, the user groups are not so willing to merge." Not everyone was complacent, however. Some users ZDNet UK spoke to found a lot that was new, and were not happy with all of it. "I have never heard of storage virtualisation," said a delegate from a channel partner in Guadaloupe, who declined to be named, "but we will certainly be looking at doing it." His company has used PA RISC -- he said he was "afraid" of the move to Itanium, which might lose the advantages of RISC processors.

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