10 signs HP is serious about software

HP details its software strategy, partnerships and technology advancements at customer show

HP hosted its annual Software Universe show in Las Vegas and revealed product enhancements, business plans and technology partnerships.

LAS VEGAS -- HP this week at Software Universe offered details about how it plans to build out its software and services business. Here are 10 things we learned that show us HP is serious about software.

1. Chairman and CEO Mark Hurd told the more than 2,600 attendees that HP invests nearly $4 billion in R&D spending annually, 70% of which he reported "was spent on some sort of software, in the area of $2.8 billion to $3 billion."

"To be the best software maker in the world, it is important we have the best software business in each category, not just market share," Hurd told attendees.

2. HP overall "broke the $100 billion revenue mark"; and its software business unit, though small in comparison to its hardware business, went from "marginally profitable" -- a few years ago it represented less than 1% of HP's revenue -- to the fastest growing business within HP, with 3,500 employees. The company reported $2 billion in software revenue in the past, and today, industry estimates show software is garnering closer to $3 billion in revenue, HP said.

3. HP this week inked a deal with hypervisor market leader VMware designed to help HP management-software better manage and optimize virtual-server environments. Industry watchers called the deal a first of its kind among the Big Four management vendors, and anticipate that virtual systems management -- today a nascent market -- will be a game-changing technology in the future.

"This deal is hot and it's the first of its kind that involves a major management vendor doing R&D and development work with VMware," says Evelyn Hubbert, a senior analyst with Forrester Research. "They need to deliver a product road map to prove there is substance behind this partnership."

4. The company built its software business in large part on such acquisitions as the $4.5 billion Mercury Interactive buy and the $1.6 billion Opsware purchase. In addition to that, HP’s software acquisitions range from Peregrine Systems in 2005 to Tower Software in May 2008. Still, HP contends it's not depending on M&A to build out its software business. In fact, Tom Hogan, senior vice president for HP Software, said the vendor already earmarked more than $400 million to spend on organic R&D within the software business unit.

"We are not dependent on M&A for innovation at HP," Hogan said. "We are driving a healthy mix of internal R&D and M&A. We don’t want to just assemble companies and give you a bag of parts."

5. HP detailed integration work that shows the vendor is invested in making its software easier to use.

"HP showed us integration among its products that reflect logical and business purposes, such as integrating its change-management software into problem-resolution tools and configuration capabilities into release-control tools," Hubbert said. "These integrations help service delivery and solve business problems."

6. HP drinks its own champagne. At the Technology Forum & Expo, which also was held in Las Vegas this week, the company detailed how it used its own hardware, software and services to consolidate more than 85 data centers into six; cut servers by 40% while increasing processing power by 250%; and double storage capacity for less cost. The experience is teaching HP about its products, Hurd said, which ultimately will help customers.

"It's not just using the software, it's stressing it. We want to find the holes to make sure what we tell you works actually works," Hurd said. "I can tell you upfront there are holes and everything can't be virtualized."

7. HP views the success of the pending $13.9 billion acquisition of EDS as dependent on its software unit. The pending buy, Hurd said, will help HP expand its services business more quickly, but not without putting standardized processes in place and coupling HP automation software with an updated services business.

"Clearly we are going to get more scale, more capabilities and be able to execute vertically, and we will clearly try to leverage the agnostic nature of HP services' outsourcing business," Hurd said. "We will not only align our software with our services, we will embed it into the service-delivery processes we use."

8. The company acknowledged its shortcomings in customer support since the Mercury acquisition closed. While HP had committed 1,000 consultants in a software-support capacity, Hogan admitted -- amid much applause during a keynote address -- that HP needs to get better at supporting all its customers using organic or acquired HP software.

"We dropped the ball particularly with ex-Mercury customers," Hogan said. "We will not rest until we have the best support in the business."

9. HP is committed to IT service-management best practices. The vendor co-authored ITIL Version 3 and incorporated the processes into such products as Release Control 4.0. In addition, Configuration Management Systems couples HP automation technology acquired with Opsware with standardized approaches to change- and configuration-management.

"IT process automation and [configuration-management-database] technologies go hand in hand; the two need each other to evolve," said Dennis Drogseth, research vice president at Enterprise Management Associates. "By using best practices and offering a cohesive way to manage change, customers can more aggressively automate processes."

10. HP touted its software-as-a-service delivery model, which offers HP software hosted and managed by HP to customers on a subscription basis. The vendor started the program about eight years ago, and is the sole software-as-a-service provider among the Big Four management vendors. Such products as SaaS for Service Manager and SaaS for Application Security offer customers a low entry price into using HP's resources that include 80 public points of presence to stress and performance-test applications from external locations.

"SaaS offers us flexibility and frees up IT resources on projects I don't have time to spend planning or implementing," says Don Jackson, engineer at Cardinal Health in Dublin, Ohio, who also licenses HP software products. "We decided that for certain tasks we don't do enough work there to warrant an investment in staff or infrastructure resources, and the SaaS model enables us to get the work done using 10% of the time it would take a full-time administrator to do it."

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.