Hewlett-Packard Elevated The Enterprise Conversation At Discover 2015

Hewlett-Packard is becoming two different companies on November 1, and what will be known as ‘Hewlett-Packard Enterprise’ is looking to address the criticisms that it isn’t really a solutions company. Some of the criticism is actually created by many of its competitors like IBM and Oracle Corporation based on what Hewlett-Packard markets, messages and sells, but ironically, driven by their major success in hardware and #1 stature in unit share in many hardware sectors. To be fair, criticism is understood, because Hewlett-Packard doesn’t necessarily lead with horizontal or vertical solutions, but then again, neither IBM nor Oracle Corporation has had great success in hardware lately.

At HP’s Discover 2015 conference I recently attended in Las Vegas, Hewlett-Packard made it a lot clearer that they are in the horizontal solutions game and are re-architecting their offerings as well as their messaging and go-to-market to do just that.

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CEO, chairwoman, and president Meg Whitman at HP’s Industry Analyst Conference (Credit: Patrick Moorhead)

I waited to write this as I needed to dig in and see how much was really behind this and make sure there was something really there. I did some digging and I’m glad to say that while Hewlett-Packard isn’t completely there, they have made major strides toward realizing it. Hewlett-Packard’s new push isn’t just about messaging or marketing- there’s something here like real services, software and products.

All of Hewlett-Packard’s new solution areas are centered on the evolution of what they call an “Idea Economy”and the needs that it has created today and will create in the future. In order to deliver on the IT needs in an “Idea Economy,” Hewlett-Packard is focusing on four horizontal solution areas that they call ‘transformational areas’. Then, each part of the company, enterprise hardware, software and services will deliver to that need.

I want to go one by one in each of the four areas.

1/ Hybrid infrastructure – maximizing performance and cost for the future

This is all about old and new infrastructure and infrastructure is an area where Hewlett-Packard is exceptionally strong. Hewlett-Packard’s idea of a ‘hybrid infrastructure’ is designed to help enterprises build a bridge to the cloud and get better value from their existing infrastructure while also creating and delivering new value quickly and continuously for all applications into the cloud. In its most basic sense, this means that they can do all the new stuff and the old stuff without sub optimizing the new stuff.

It’s easy to forget why this ‘bridge’ is important and many of Hewlett-Packard’s existing customers are working as hard as they can to best deliver their current applications and services while also trying to manage their migration to new, more cloud-based and mobile-friendly applications. These different types of applications require different kinds of infrastructure in order to be deployed effectively and efficiently. I recently met with a CIO of a top 10 bank and he told me that they have 3,000 apps, 75% over 15 years old. That’s the old ‘stuff’ and he wants the other 25% to move to the new, cloud driven stuff.

HP wants to create a new type of hybrid infrastructure that optimizes for performance and cost by helping their customers build clouds that scale and work with their current and future infrastructure. They accomplish this by also helping optimize apps, traditional or mobile both in the cloud and in the data center by matching each workload to the right platform and increasing automation.

Hewlett-Packard used its newest 3.2M IOPS solid state all flash storage arrays as an example of hybrid infrastructure, but they had better examples in the breakout sessions. I think the best example was Project Synergy, which, through a unified set of APIs, wants to create fluid resource pools and connects the old world to a world of Chef, Puppet, Docker, OpenStack and whatever new comes out which we know it always does and always will.

I think HP could be very strong in this area. Interestingly, Cisco Systems talked about some interesting things they are doing in this space too at their Cisco Live customer event a week later and these two could be big competitors in the composable infrastructure space. IBM isn’t talking a lot about composable infrastructure these days, but at its most basic and granular level, they are busy at work getting their new OpenPOWER infrastructure compatible with all the new open source software as it comes out. Oracle Corporation isn’t even really having this conversation.

2/ Digital enterprise – protecting critical data

This one is all about security. Hewlett-Packard’s ‘digital enterprise’ focuses on protecting a company’s digital assets. The threat landscape is wider and more diverse than ever before and I think Hewlett-Packard has positioned themselves to be one of the leaders in creating the most complete solutions to the managing of risk in the industry. Hewlett-Packard’s view of risk is not limited to security threats. They also believe that it includes backup and recovery. All of these are architected together to keep their customers’ businesses up and running in the event of a disaster.

Different to many security systems, Hewlett-Packard’s approach towards protection is about being proactive rather than reactive and save money by integrating security policies in the beginning. That is a huge differentiator for HP and is the future reality of threats. Hewlett-Packard has over 5,000 security employees that are constantly working towards understanding the evolving threats that challenge their enterprises customers and has also established a partnership with the security experts at FireEye Inc.

It’s not all about prediction because once attackers get in, you have to do something about it. HP is offering these capabilities through Hewlett-Packard ‘Threat Central Security Research’ and a various set of risk management services in addition to the standard services like Hewlett-Packard Network Security, Hewlett-Packard Software Security and Hewlett-Packard Encryption and Data protection services.

Hewlett-Packard also has services like Fortify that are designed to check application code for security prior to their deployment to ensure a safe operational environment. This comes down to Hewlett-Packard wanting to proactively protect the interactions between users, applications and data across any location or device. With the increasing uncertainty around security, Hewlett-Packard is capitalizing on their enterprise security expertise and positioning themselves in the lucrative world of security.

Net-net I think HP has one of the most comprehensive security offerings of any large solutions company on the planet at a time when security is becoming the most important area. Dell’s SecureWorks and client-based security is in that same league, too. Unless I’m missing something, IBM, Cisco Systems and Oracle Corporation have taken a back seat as it relates to a broad-based security offering.

3/ Data driven organization – ‘enabling real-time actionable insights’

This one is about decision support, analytics and Big Data. It also happens to be the area of intent focus of IBM.

At its most basic level, Hewlett-Packard sees that many companies are looking for their IT to drive a data driven organization, an organization that makes decisions based on empirical data and analytics. The company is addressing using open source, low-cost solutions like Cloudera and Hortonworks to use all of the data available, be it business data or the explosion of human data and machine data.

This combination of data from different storage subsystems and platforms can allow for the creation of real-time actionable analytics, but you need the most powerful tools to do it. At its highest level, the result of this is better and faster decision making, which ultimately saves businesses both time and money. One of the ways that Hewlett-Packard addresses this problem is with Hewlett-Packard Haven which is their big data platform designed to combine all of the legacy types of business data as well as the new human and machine data and to enable actionable analytics based on all that data. The solution addresses structured and non-structured data and at massive data rates and volumes that encompasses IoT and research.

This area will be interesting to watch as IBM has such a stake in analytics with Watson and their vertical approaches. The big question enterprises need to ask is if a vertical approach is the best approach or just another lock-in versus a horizontal approach HP is taking.

4/ Workplace productivity – ‘giving companies added flexibility and productivity’

Simply put, this is all about mobility, the definition of where employees work and the digitization of work. It’s not the hardware devices, but everything else. This one is very interesting in that Dell has shown some real thought leadership and strength in this space. IBM is playing serious catch up here and Oracle Corporation hasn’t yet shown up.

HP says its vision to enable workplace productivity is through enabling flexibility and mobility in the workplace because nowadays experience is king. Workplace productivity itself has become a redefined term because the definition of the workplace continues to change. As the workplace becomes more and more remote, the need to deliver productivity outside of the traditional office increases.

Tomorrow’s digital workplace will be everywhere employees work, and enterprise IT will need to adjust to that in a big way. Hewlett-Packard wants to enable their customer customers to deliver a real time experience to employees and customers everywhere any time, on any device. Hewlett-Packard also wants to deliver rich digital and mobile experiences to employees, customers and partners of their customers, focusing on the decentralization of the office and the need to deliver quality applications directly to the user, no matter who the user may be.

Hewlett-Packard’s approach to workplace productivity focuses on enabling any device, anytime, anywhere through managed mobility services and networking technologies. But they are also focused on seamless communication and collaboration through services like Skype for Business, Services for Office 365 and UCaaS among other platforms. They also look to increase workplace productivity by automating lots of workflows while also helping create and support relevant mobile applications, solidifying their commitment to mobility in the workplace. Hewlett-Packard believes that all of these will deliver the best possible end to end experience for users and that will ultimately drive improvements to workplace productivity.

I may need to do more research on this area, but this could be one area where Hewlett-Packard Enterprise needs a bit more refinement in offerings and messaging or just more detail. This could have something to do with the HP Inc. divestiture as they have a ton of mobility services and products, but I could be wrong. I totally get what enterprise group brings to the table here. HP’s Aruba acquisition, the network group’s SDN strategy, virtualized desktops, virtualized mobile apps, and datacenter strength is paramount, but not what enterprises start with in this area.

Wrapping up

I’m glad I took the time to research what Hewlett-Packard is doing and what they’re saying. HP is up-leveling their offerings and approach from a hardware to more horizontal solutions as well as improving the messaging and GTM. These horizontal solutions are what enterprises are really asking for and could help Hewlett-Packard differentiate themselves from IBM and Oracle Corporation. A vertical approach has merit, but I am questioning at what cost to the enterprise. If a vertical approach locks enterprises into specific vendors and they can’t take advantage of the massive horizontal industry investment being made, that’s not good. Again, I’m still thinking this horizontal versus vertical solutions thesis through.

I do think many would agree that it takes more than just singular software, services and hardware offerings in the future to meet the needs of enterprise. It requires a combination of them to create real solutions. Hewlett-Packard has made it clear through their four major horizontal solution areas that they aren’t just a hardware, software or technology company anymore, they are saying they changing themselves in order to make it clear that they are a solutions provider for the Idea Economy.

After some pokes and prods the last few weeks, I’m happy to say that while Hewlett-Packard isn’t on the goal line, they have made a lot of progress toward it and have a ways to go. I really like the horizontal approach, which can very easily be taken to a more vertical approach through a GTM.

It’s going to be a fun few years, that’s for sure. Who ever said enterprise was boring?