Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Thoughts on the HP Split

Too many people equate the PC business side of current HPQ as Compaq, and the enterprise side of current HPQ as the old HP. The truth is the old HP was nearly dead as a enterprise computing products company after spinning out Agilent and before acquiring Compaq. A quick look at HP's current technology portfolio shows much of it came in through acquisition. Much original HP technology has faded away. What is worse is much of HP's acquired technologies have been neglected to atrophy.

All of HP's current x86 server technology is former Compaq technology. The HP c-Class Blade System is a Compaq design which was in the works prior to the acquisition. HP's rack-mount x86 server technology is former Compaq. Engineering for HP x86 servers is done at the former Compaq facility in Houston.

Prior to the Compaq acquisition, HP's x86 server business was struggling to compete with IBM and Compaq's x86 server offerings. HP's x86 servers suffered from product quality issues, and little innovation.

HP's enterprise storage portfolio was a joke prior to the Compaq acquisition. Their organic mid-range system was sub-par, and they relied on an OEM relationship with EMC for their high-end solution.

Through the Compaq acquisition HP acquired the most sophisticated mid-range SAN platform of its time, the Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA). This was developed by Digital's StorageWorks division, which was working on the EVA prior to Compaq's acquiring them.

Within a decade, HP failed to innovate the EVA, and had to acquire 3PAR (and pay three times its market price due to a bidding war with Dell), to reinvigorate its mid-range storage line. HP also acquired LeftHand Network's SMB iSCSI systems to address the low end of its portfolio. HP still relies on an OEM relationship for the high-end, but now with HDS.

HP divested itself of the microprocessor business, ceding its HP-WideWord VLIW design to Intel to become the Itanium EPIC processor.

In the enterprise server space, HP's acquisition of Convex Computer gave it the SuperDome system, which originated as Convex's next generation Exemplar. While HP has iterated and evolved Convex's NUMA interconnect several times, there has been no net-new high-end server design from HP. The SuperDome 2 simply marries the "Convex Exemplar++" interconnect with the Compaq c-Class I/O backplane. And the idea that the coming "x86 SuperDome" will be anything other than a niche system is not going to happen.

In operating systems, other than its "Ignigte" bare-metal provisioning technology, HP-UX has lagged technologically behind Solaris and AIX for two decades now. HP's "innovations" were to OEM Veritas filesystem and volume management technology.

In automation, HP acquired OpsWare, the best technology out there in 2007. But now all of the oxygen in data center automation is being sucked up by either VMware or OpenStack.

HP had an excellent managed services organization (it used to be headquartered here in Atlanta), but this organization was subsumed into whatever is left of the former EDS post acquisition.

So the only organic components of HP I see still having value are the 30% of HP Services which was not part of the EDS acquisition and HP's printing division. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise is little more than a publicly traded private equity fund, a holding company of various technology brands (Tandem/DEC/Compaq/3PAR/OpsWare/EDS), in the mold of CA Technologies. In that way, they are similar to IBM, which also has acquired and failed to maintain many technologies. The difference is, IBM's organic enterprise technology (Mainframe, POWER, DB2, etc.) is aggressively maintained.

I honestly think the HP PC/Printer spin out will never happen as envisioned. Instead, HP will likely sell of HP PC/Printer to a private equity company who seeks the printer division as a cash flow business, and sees the PC division as something they have to buy in order to get the printer business. They will likely sell the PC business to an ODM who seeks a branded entry.