HP’s recent Industry Analyst Summit in Boston was a success if its goal was to demonstrate that top management had their act together after months of turmoil and controversy. The 250 invited analysts saw plenty of unity of vision, a focus on continued innovation, and a chief executive who demonstrated confidence and keen understanding of the challenges and opportunities ahead.
It had been a turbulent two years since analysts had last been invited to an event like this. The lag time in itself was indicative of HP’s trials. The summits were a regular springtime occurrence in Boston for years. But in 2011 it was moved to San Francisco by new CEO Léo Apotheker. Apotheker was hired by HP after the controversial resignation of former CEO Mark Hurd.
That 2011 San Francisco Summit was a broader affair. While the focus of these events was traditionally enterprise systems this one added personal systems with plenty of talk about HPs tablet and WebOS operating system. There was also talk of HP’s plans to acquire British software company Autonomy.
Before the end of that same year, the HP tablet was discontinued after only weeks on the market, WebOS would be spun off, plans were announced to spin off personal systems, and HP took a $9 billion write down on the Autonomy purchase. Then, in September 2011, the HP Board removed Apotheker and board member and former eBay exec Meg Whitman took over.
The Analyst Summits were scheduled and then cancelled twice in 2012 as Whitman got to work on getting HP back on track. In this year’s event, Whitman reiterated that this is not a project that can be completed in one year, but they have made a good start.
Personal Systems were there again and had some interesting things to show in the mobile space, but I am primarily interested in convergence and virtualization. Here I saw a reiteration of HP’s leadership in convergence. HP execs rightly noted that the company was first to promote converged systems where servers, networks, storage, virtualization and management come together in a unified system.
HP has solid products at each layer of the converged systems layer cake as well as in aspects of the software defined infrastructure (especially software defined networking). They are investing more in R&D to further innovate on convergence. It was noted that the current iteration of convergence – for example stacks of blade servers, disk arrays, and switches – will not be able to cope with future requirements to store and process mountains of data.
A big part of HP’s future innovations roadmap is Project Moonshot. Moonshot is a server architecture project built around the processors normally associated with smart phones, tablets, and netbooks (such as ARM and Intel’s Atom). Moonshot is shooting to create servers that consume up to 89% less energy, 94% less space, and cost 63% less costs of traditional x86 servers – a hyperscale platform ready for those mountains of data HP says are coming from everything from social media to ubiquitous sensors in the global Internet of things.
I was impressed with the focus and collaboration of the various parts of HP’s portfolio, and leadership, under the mantra of “One HP.” There are no guarantees here. The challenges of the future remain, and the competition is fierce, especially in industry standard architectures where the dreaded (by tier one vendors) term “commodity” is often heard.
HP as a company and a product portfolio has been there all along in spite of the turmoil at the top. It was gratifying, then, to see that HP’s leadership team has found themselves again.