Meg Whitman: Here's everything you need to know about HP Enterprise

HPE CEO Whitman addresses private and public clouds, competition from Dell/EMC and more

Meg Whitman: Here's everything you need to know about HP Enterprise
HP Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman Credit: HPE

Meg Whitman doesn't shy away from a challenge. She led eBay from tiny startup to household name, ran for governor of California and, nearly five years ago, took the helm at Hewlett Packard and stabilized an organization stumbling badly from a variety of very public missteps. Having engineered the split of the Silicon Valley icon into consumer tech (HP, Inc.) and corporate-focused Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Whitman is now HPE's Chief Executive Officer.

The IT market is undergoing fundamental and rapid change owing to cloud, mobile and other powerful drivers. The competitive landscape in which this $50 billion startup plays is also shifting dramatically, with a slew of emerging players and the prospect of the largest-ever tech merger of Dell and EMC. No sweat, right?

In this installment of the IDG CEO Interview Series, we asked Whitman to talk directly to IT leaders about what the company split means for them as customers, and how HP Enterprise's new innovation agenda will help them transition to private and hybrid cloud. Whitman spoke with Chief Content Officer John Gallant about why HPE is better positioned than Dell/EMC to drive customer success, and about the company's strategy for hyper-converged infrastructure -- HPE's so-called Composable Infrastructure. She also shared insights on big data, cognitive computing, networking, high-performance computing and other critical growth areas for the company. Whitman discussed the challenges ahead and how she'd like perceptions of the company to change.

I really want to focus on what your strategy, as well as some of your recent moves, mean for our readers, who are senior IT leaders. If I'm a CIO or another top IT executive who has considered HP a strategic partner over the years, how exactly does this split benefit my organization?

First, I would say that the market is moving at lightning speed. I'm sure your audience says this to you every day. I've been in the IT industry for a long time. I've never seen it move this fast. And, in fact, part of the reason for the split was that we had to get smaller to go faster.

What they will find, I believe, is a stronger, more agile, more innovative company that is better positioned to help them transform their IT infrastructure. Virtually every customer I talk to has an aging, siloed, relatively high cost and not as flexible an infrastructure as they would like. And they're going to have to get to a new place with better security, using big data, enabling a mobile generation of users. Most people, not everyone, but most customers need help thinking through that and actually getting it done.

We hear terms like agile and nimble a lot. Can you give our readers some specific examples of what that means for them? Where is this agility actually showing up in terms of new investment or bringing things to market more quickly?

It turns out these two businesses -- both HP, Inc. as well as Hewlett-Packard Enterprise -- are two different businesses. Right? The PC and printer business is a scale [business]. We sell six PCs a second at HP, Inc.

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The Hewlett-Packard Enterprise business is a solutions business. And we are now doubling down on innovation and R&D. We have introduced probably the fastest and most important innovation agenda that we have had -- at least since I've been here, for sure, and maybe in the last decade. A lot of long-time HP'ers tell me this is the best product lineup we've had in a decade. It is more focused.

[According to data provided by an HPE spokesman, R&D increased both in absolute terms and as a percentage of revenue over the past three years. R&D grew from $1.95 billion and 3.4% of revenue in fiscal year 2013 to $2.33 billion and 4.5% of revenue in FY2015.]

I'll just tell you personally, I went from running seven businesses to basically running

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