HP vision short on experience

Hewlett-Packard Co. calls it the Adaptive Enterprise, but in reality it's an elaborate strategy that's long on business process re-engineering vision and short on real-world experience.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company has found itself in the uncomfortable position of recasting technology strategies already articulated ad nauseam by competitors including IBM Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc., critics observed.

When HP launched its Adaptive Enterprise strategy last week, it appeared to signal the company's attempt to overcome a situation where its technology-centered Adaptive Infrastructure vision had been superceded by IBM's On Demand, a broad-ranging, business-process-savvy vision.

"It's unfortunate and sad that HP has stretched to be a business process and business reorganization company," said Jonathan Eunice, principal analyst at Illuminata Inc. in Nashua, N.H. "There is an element of 'me too', which is unfortunate because on the product side HP has a petty slick story to tell."

He added that HP's Services business, run by Executive Vice President Ann Livermore, does have high-level business-process re-engineering capabilities. "But that is a tiny, tiny sliver of the organization as a whole," he said.

At the heart of HP's business-process enthusiasm is the "Darwin Reference Architecture," a collection of industry-standard technologies and processes gleaned from HP and its partners' experiences.

Shane Robison, HP's CTO, explained that Darwin signals the company's intent to use its resource-optimization technology to virtualize an enterprise's entire IT infrastructure. Specifically, HP will engage with customers at an "Agility Assessment" level. "CIOs are asking for discussions to take place at the business-process level," he said.

In this context, HP is attempting to map its domain expertise in integration technologies and its understanding of business processes to enterprise applications, such as CRM and ERP. HP's enterprise-integration capabilities are known as the Adaptive Application Architecture, Robison said.

At the same time, HP's vision calls for it to leverage its Utility Data Center , touted as among the first working examples of enterprise-class utility computing.

"This isn't slideware; we've done it," announced HP chairman and CEO Carly Fiorina. HP's own IT environment is managed by HP Services. "We are now scaling our e-business operations dramatically," she said.

Yet CIO Bob Napier said most of HP's own business-process re-engineering is implemented by HP engineers rather than broad use of specific business-process-management toolsets. Napier said HP does use UML (Unified Modeling Language) modeling tools, including Proforma's Provision, but most of the focus is on the skills within his business process management organization.

HP's rivals were quick to call into question the company's strategy. Sun executives labeled HP as copying IBM's one-stop-shopping mantra, while Computer Associates said HP is supporting its own operating system platform.

"We don't see any plans for their Virtual Server Environment to support any non-HP platforms," said David Hochhauser, CA's vice president of Unicenter marketing.

HP's plan is to eventually extend the Virtual Server Environment to the Windows and Linux operating systems, though no timeframe has been announced for when the extension will be available, an HP spokeswoman said.

Bill Martorelli, research vice president at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc., likened the industry antics to an arms race. "These things are long on vision. If you want to remain viable as a large-scale supplier of IT, you have to put together a road map first," he said.

According to Illuminata's Eunice, HP should stick more closely to its partnership strengths. Indeed, a host of partners have lined up to support Adaptive Enterprise, including Accenture Ltd., BEA Systems Inc., BearingPoint Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., Deloitte Consulting, Oracle Corp., PeopleSoft Inc., SAP AG, and Siebel Systems Inc.

"They really shouldn't have chased this process re-engineering on their own account," Eunice said.

-- Stacy Cowley and Robert McMillan, correspondents for the IDG News Service, an InfoWorld affiliate, contributed to this report.

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