HP: Will customers 'Discover' more of a master plan?

Ahead of Hewlett-Packard's Discover conference there are multiple questions about the company. HP is stable for sure, but still has to navigate some key innovation curves.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Hewlett-Packard will hold court for business tech pros and a lot of the questions will revolve around the company's strategy, innovation pipeline, and narrative.

The company's Discover conference, held in Las Vegas this week, is likely to feature a bevy of hardware and software announcements. But a second quarter that disappointed some, and job cuts ahead, highlight the challenges HP faces to pivot to next-gen technologies and cloud computing.

Here's a look at the big questions surrounding HP going into its Discover conference:

Enterprise giants and cloud computing: What's cloudwashing vs. real DNA change?

What's the narrative? Last month, HP reported a second quarter that left a lot to be desired. The big news was that HP will cut headcount by another 11,000 to 16,000. Wall Street liked the move since it boosted profit margins, but HP can't cut its way to prosperity forever. HP has some good stories to tell — Moonshot for instance — but many analysts say the company is too tethered to commodity products. Indeed, servers, PCs, networking, and storage are all facing pressure from virtualization and cloud computing. HP needs to build a narrative around innovation and big moves.

Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Brian White said "we continue to question the company's competitive position with a portfolio that we believe is highly exposed to some of the more commoditized areas of the IT industry. Essentially, it remains difficult for us to understand the end game for HP."

hp enterprise groupq2

Can HP keep its server lead? According to IDC, HP held its 26.5 percent share of the server market. However, Cisco is surging and Oracle has stabilized. More worrisome, contract manufacturers' first-quarter market share was 7.3 percent, up from 4.1 percent a year ago. HP will need to prove its boxes can do more than be commodity servers. The company will have to tell a good virtualization story as well as build a case around value-added software. Hyperscale servers like the Moonshot family may also help the cause. Here's a look at the latest server data:

idc server share q1

Does HP's cloud vision work? HP recently launched its Helion portfolio of cloud services with an eye toward public and private clouds. The initial message revolved around OpenStack and that HP will be more open. HP will have to quickly add to its Helion case. Also see: HP, enterprise giants fill up OpenStack bandwagon | HP to invest $1bn in open-source cloud computing, launches Helion portfolio

Where does HP fit in the software defined data center mix? Every hardware vendor is talking about software-defined data centers, storage, and networking. The challenge is that these hardware vendors also have massive revenue streams to protect and the software-defined movement is ultimately a threat. HP will have to play the software-defined game as well as a company like VMware.

Can HP work the all-flash storage angle? HP's 3Par unit has been strong, but the second quarter highlighted how storage and converged systems showed weakness, analysts say. HP will have to better navigate the flash storage array market since that's where the growth is as enterprises process analytic and big data workloads. All the storage players have noted that spending has paused as companies consider alternatives — notably flash and cloud. HP's storage line needs to be in the fast SSD lane.

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