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HP's Power Announcements and Missed Opportunities

HP's recent coming out party unveiled products ranging from an enhanced server line to a new range of thin clients to the first all-in-one workstation. What's missing is an HP corporate story along with what may be the major competitive opportunity. Let me explain.

The Power of an Umbrella Company

You can see the power in the HP umbrella company structure in the shear and impressive breadth of the offerings released last month. Let's take a look at each major announcement:

Project Voyager

This Generation 8 announcement links networking, storage and server announcements into an impressive suite of offerings. This was the third of three big and somewhat related announcements from HP over the last 100 days. The first was Project Moonshot, which brought ARM into the mission critical space and created the first enterprise solution for massive virtualization offered by this class of vendor. The second was Project Odyssey an effort to unify x86 and UNIX server architectures to provide a single hardware roadmap that will embrace UNIX, Windows Server and Linux platforms.

Project Voyager goes into the fabric of the solution to create a level of intelligence that may be unmatched in a broad-based ecosystem. This includes integrated lifecycle automation, dynamic workload acceleration, automated energy optimization, and proactive service and support. Impacts range from a promised 3x administration productivity improvement lowering staffing requirements, to a 6x performance gain, to a 70 percent improvement in energy efficiency. This solution has 150 design innovations dealing with internal monitoring, to ease of service, massive investment in solid state technology and physical security.

Overall, this is one of the most impressive announcements from any vendor and it is one of three in the last 100 day that were equally impressive.

Thin Client Refresh

Most companies can focus on either the client or the server portion of a solution, but HP is one of the few that can do both. It is also the only company of its scale that has a fully fleshed out thin client solution. Last month, it refreshed the t610 and t510 thin clients offerings. The 610t is based on AMD Fusion APU technology, basically a PC on a chip. These can support up to four monitors.

The t510 uses a VIA processor for extreme energy efficiency and is even more cost optimized. This can support up to two monitors and both provide the appliance-like benefits that thin clients promise.

HP Z-1 All-In-One Workstation

Perhaps one of the most impressive user-focused devices launched in some time for the desktop, which has been getting little real investment of late, is the HP Z-1. This workstation with Intel Xeon and NVIDIA Quadro class leading technology is the first in this desired class at this performance level. Even Apple has been slow to adopt its iMacs to workstation performance levels and given engineers require this technology in areas, like video editing, that are Apple strong points this is clearly a move by HP against one of Apple's traditional, and rare, professional pillars.

Often leaders are defined by going where others are unwilling to tread and workstations remain a high-margin business. HP now has a unique and attractive offering here and this move doesn't come without risk.

The Problem With an Umbrella Company

The real power in all of these announcements isn't really in each one. It is in the collective solutions that could be built using a number of them. For instance, Project Moonshot combined with the Thin Client products could create a PC-like ecosystem that was more secure, more flexible, and more energy efficient than one any other company could build.

Combining the Z-1 with Project Voyager could give a solution that seamlessly bridged an engineering group working on projects from defense to DreamWorks-level animation creation and editing that other vendor could just dream about.

However, umbrella companies tend to have divisions that don't cooperate well and they tend to underfund corporate marketing. While corporate assures that each division is well managed it generally is unable or unwilling to create solutions that bridge announcements and showcase the synergy that could otherwise occur between divisions.

The closest thing we have to this is VCE, a consortium that includes EMC, VMware and Cisco and blends the technologies from each vendor into a solution that is unique in the market in terms of scope and scalability (but lacks an optimized client). VSE showcases what HP could likely do better if it funded an effort to connect the divisions more strongly and could create and market what results.

HP's Whitman Has an Opportunity

Meg Whitman will have a significant upside if she can break what has been an historic problem with the umbrella company structure. Sony likely has it the worst as it often appears as if each group is better at partnering with another firm than a sister division. HP, the company Meg Whitman is heading up, is in far better shape than Sony but still isn't mining the significant synergy that otherwise might exist in the firm. She has actually shifted the Office of Strategy to Software, which isn't consistent with the hardware solutions discussed here, and it was that office -- originally set up under Carly Fiorina, but then stripped by Mark Hurd -- that originally was missioned to find this synergy.

These announcements showcase that HP could build a VCE-like solution that could even be broader than VCE's but only if the corporate office can step up to the opportunity. This is rarely attempted but it could become a cornerstone of success for the company. We'll see if it steps up.

Rob is president and principal analyst of the Enderle Group. Previously, he was the Senior Research Fellow for Forrester Research and the Giga Information Group. Prior to that he worked for IBM and held positions in Internal Audit, Competitive Analysis, Marketing, Finance, and Security. Currently, Rob writes on emerging technology, security, and Linux for a wide variety of publications and appears on national news TV shows that include CNBC, FOX, Bloomberg and NPR.

Read more about data center in CIO's Data Center Drilldown.


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