CEO Shift Could Be HP's Make-or-Break Point in Integrated Systems

Loraine Lawson

To be honest, I haven't followed HP's CEO brouhaha too closely. I'm more concerned about the U.S. economy and personal issues than the demise of an overpaid executive. Also, I live in Louisville, Ky., and thanks to University of Louisville head basketball coach Rick Pitino, we're oversaturated on the tawdry stuff these days.


There's certainly no shortage of prognostication and advice about HP's future. IT Busines Edge's Rob Eckerle, Don Tennant and Mike Vizardare among the many who've written about HP recently. InformationWeek even has a piece outlining a mobile comeback plan for HP, titled "A 7-Step Plan For HP To Succeed in Mobile."


But for my money, I'm less concerned about life at HP and more concerned about how HP's future might affect the rest of us, so to speak. This week, TechWeb's Senior Vice-President and Content Director Bob Evans hit upon something that is of interest, not just to me, but to anyone curious about integrated systems combining optimized hardware and software.


He's talking about the mega machines that take "appliance" to a whole new level, such as IBM's packaging of ERP systems on Power 7 hardware and Oracle's Exadata V2 database combo-to name the top two.


It's an emerging market of "optimized systems," Evans writes on InformationWeek, that CIOs love because it promises to cut integration costs and headaches:

If that Oracle-IBM collaboration can take place in spite of the fangs-out catfight in which those two companies have otherwise been engaged, and if that collaboration can also be taken as a measure of how appealing CIOs are finding these new optimized systems, then I can only scratch my head at HP's apparent reluctance to jump even tentatively into this new category that has the potential to cut integration costs for CIOs while also letting them focus more of their teams' time and brainpower on customer-facing opportunities instead of internal tuning and tinkering.

What's nice about this column is that it doesn't just cover HP, it also looks at the other players, including EMC, Microsoft, Teradata and Netezza. He also explains how SAP is partnering its way into the market, and HP is a part of that effort, but SAP's done all the marketing on it, he writes. The only noise coming from HP is crickets chirping, it seems.


Evans expects Oracle will make another big announcement related to these "ultra-high-end business systems" at the Oracle OpenWorld 2010 in San Francisco on Sept. 19-23. He warns that HP needs to get in soon, while the market is still ripe.


But there is another possibility, raised by ZDNet blogger Tom Foremski: What if Oracle just buys HP outright? Larry Ellison is a fan of ousted HP CEO and Chairman Mike Hurd, and uch an acquisition would appeal to both parties, Foremski contends:

The potential consolidation opportunities with Oracle's Sun acquisition are tremendous. Plus, HP would be able to beef up its services group and its troubled middleware and software businesses. Oracle would in one fell swoop would become IBM's largest and ablest competitor, able to match Big Blue mano a mano across every one of IBM's business groups. West Coast versus East Coast techIt's a rare opportunity

Whatever happens, many seem to think HP has a lot of unmet potential in the integration and even middleware market, and this leadership shift could translate into HP's make-or-break time.

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