What of HP and storage after Carly Fiorina?

With the recent departure of Carly Fiorina as CEO of HP, it is understandable that a number of readers have expressed interest in - and concern over - the direction of HP storage for the next several quarters.

I spent two days last week with the senior management team of HP's storage hardware and software groups. Here is some of what I learned.

Competitors' opinions notwithstanding, HP intends to remain very much in the thick of things when it comes to providing both storage and storage management solutions. In discussions with managers from both the storage and server product lines, I saw plenty of good evidence that the development process at HP is ramping up at an increasing rate. A key takeaway from this: when it comes to storage hardware and software, the product pipeline seems full in terms of refreshing existing products. Also,, anticipate added breadth so that HP will have hardware coverage in areas it presently does not address.

It was of course good to know that storage is receiving at least its fair share of HP's honking big R&D budget, but this was also predictable.

There is something else that is likely to be more important in the long term however - HP's belated realization that it should take advantage of its ability to manage across most of the IT infrastructure. This is something that HP - along with two other storage competitors, Computer Associates and IBM - is able to do.

Such a capability means that HP - potentially - can offer a much more sophisticated product set than its storage-only competitors. Why? Because HP can move beyond managing storage as a discrete subset of IT. HP - along with CA and IBM - has the ability to view storage within the context of the overall IT system. This is not necessarily of any use for hardware vendors, but is an increasingly important differentiator for vendors that provide management solutions.

In fact, the more complex the managed infrastructure, the more important such a capability becomes.

HP is well positioned here. The company's history as a provider of both network and server management systems allows it to understand storage issues within the grander IT context. As almost any reader working with complex systems understands, this is a major step towards providing more complete management oversight for enterprise IT.

As we frequently point out in this newsletter, managing the various aspects of IT as individual parts - discrete and disconnected - is an inherently inefficient way to manage complex environments. Fundamentally, the more complex the IT shop's organization, the more important the need to manage with an understanding of how each part influences and is influenced by the rest of the system.

For systems to be optimized, they have to be managed as whole systems. The alternative of individual parts would mean sub-optimal and less competitive IT.

More on this, and on HP, next time.

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