I went to HP's analyst day(s) event last week. I rarely go to analyst days, because A: they tend to be in far off places and anything I can do to avoid an airplane these days is a victory, and B: there are way to many analysts at them. I went to this because HP is nice enough to have them in Boston. I'm still working on having them eliminate the analysts from the event.
Anyhow, being the contrairian I am, let me begin by saying to all you "HP the train wreck" thinkers remain correct—from a PR perspective. It will take a long time to live down the debacle of the last few years. Having said that, I'm happy to report that they may be my new favorite company to watch and talk about. Why you ask? Because they are doing really, really smart things (for what has been a really, really dumb company sometimes).
1. I love the fact that Meg, who I still don't know, has effectively removed all the stupid internal silo's between product groups. The management there actually has to talk to each other now—and it's paying off. I have NEVER ever heard as many executives stay 100% on message before—even in companies 1/10th the size—as HP did last week. CONVERGED, CONVERGED, CONVERGED. No one deviated. Every group told their story in the context of the overall converged message—and after you spoke to two or more of them—it made sense. It made tons of sense.
2. Each product group not only told their story in relation the overall converged story, they told us about REAL innovation within those groups, and how that innovation led not only to a better set of products to sell, but a better converged story. As a marketing wonk, I got a little choked up! For example, we all know that 99% of SDN talk is horse shit—but HP walked me through real customer examples of real life applications (HP deployed apps as well as customer written apps) that totally took advantage of the Openflow that HP has stuffed into all it's switches. In one example, a school (I think) was able to implement an app whereby when a student or other came into contact with the school's WiFi—the network automatically detected their device (for what it was), found out who they were, scanned that device for issues, told them they had a virus, stuffed them into quarantine, told IT/Helpdesk where the device was, and sent help to them in minutes. Kids returning from break tend to show up with nasty things on their devices—the network caught it—and made it right. Wicked smart stuff.
3. 3Par. Yikes—are they on FIRE. Already running at over $1B a year, every chart is up and too the right. The systems sing—customers adore them (I know this to be true, I've personally spoken to dozens of them within the last 2 months). The 4 controllers are unique and putting big pressure on the competition. Competitive response, thus far, has been to either bring very high end offerings (with lots of controllers) way down market (read: slash prices) to compete, or basically to give up. Of course the big dogs will come up with legitimate competition but for the time being, 3Par is the absolute storage belle of the ball. Further, everyone at HP knows it—so every group/executive LEADS with the 3Par message—because it's best to ride the winner. How long can they hold on? Who knows but for this point in time it's cool to have a totally legit leader that ISN'T from the status quo. EMC hit a home run with Data Domain, and HP has done the same with 3Par. In the brilliant words of Mark Peters, it's time for the competition to "paint their box yellow" until they can catch up. The QoS, thin provisioning, etc. features are being widely adopted and the performance is being heralded. I've had some sick quotes from customers I'll be reporting soon.
4. Their CMO, who I also don't know, lives on Martha's Vineyard down the street from me. Therefore, he must be brilliant.
5. VCE (absolutely magnificently) announced $1B in VCE deals to date. HP has done more than 3X that. Imagine if they told someone? Also interesting, HP claims an astonishingly high win rate vs. VCE and spends most of their competitive juices worrying about FlexPod with NetApp. At least I find that interesting. Maybe it means they don't play in as high end deals where we see VCE but it was still a very interesting comment.
So, does that mean they are out of the woods? Hell no, but Mr. Donatelli's enterprise group is lock step on message, delivering product, and continues to move in the right direction. I can't comment on the other parts of the company, mostly because I refuse to pay attention to them, as they bore me. Eventually, barring them doing something massively moronic, like hiring Bobby Valentine as the next CEO and RuPaul as Chairman of the board, the public will forgive and forget their past PR missteps and start looking at their execution of the business—which in this man's opinion, is operating at a very high level right now.
For more industry oddities, how about this—I believe Oracle/Sun has just become the #3 NAS guy with ZFS behind NTAP and EMC. Easy to dismiss (at least historically for me) because of the whole weird "Larry finds change in couch, Larry buys Sun, Larry buys Pillar off of himself" stuff—but the exadata thing has worked for them as far as I can tell—and while much of Sun withers on the vine, they keep pumping money and resources into storage. They brought in Scott Genereaux who has a long storage pedigree, hired Phil Bullinger from LSI a while ago to get products out the door (he is a star) and recently dragged Steve Zivanic into the fold to amp up the story. Sun, since the beginning of time, has been a horrific (that's being nice) marketing company. Sun = DEC in marketing. That kind of bad. Zivanic is a smart, possibly insane, creative loud guy. At the very least, I guarantee you'll be seeing things come out of Oracle you'd never expect. It should be entertaining. I'd like to see them start posting victories and stop making me find things out through back channels. Who are they hiding from?
FYI, both Genereaux and Zivanic ran away from Nirvanix, and I haven't heard jack squat from them since. (Nirvanix that is.)
Vendor Tip of the Day: Prepare to sell your stuff the way a customer needs to consume it—stop attempting them to behave the way YOU want. A friend of mine, Brian Reale of Tip Capital put together a program for vendors to effectively OEM a financing arm—enabling them to sell their stuff the way the big guys do. This is very effective in unsure economic times. I thought about this in a meeting the other day with Coraid—why not have Coraid Financial the way HP or EMC or IBM does? Tip does all the work but to the customer it's one seamless transaction on Coraid letterhead and books. Seems like a great way to arm your sales force. www.tipcapital.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Speaking of Coraid—they have 1800 customers—who use their stuff in a storage GRID (I've been preaching this for a while now) plugged into Ethernet. Scale wide and deep by plugging in more—it self actualizes—CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP. It's brilliant stuff but mostly because it's grid. And cheap. And it works. But I like the fact that it's grid!
I still have the paper I wrote on the case for universal grid architectures available freely at www.esg-global.com/DeepDive13 I'll be presenting it at the Virtualization Deep Dive at the Microsoft offices in Cambridge MA tomorrow morning, if you can't sleep.
I'm meeting the new big cheese at IBM storage tomorrow afternoon. Very interested to hear what he has to say. I'm afraid IBM storage will continue to lose relevance in the market without some big changes. I'm hoping to hear about some!
I can't be the only one who loved the EMC Flash announcement last week. Less you are a total idiot, the big E has set it sights on destroying Fusion I/O. It ain't just business—it has to be personal. I have no idea why, but wow, they spent WAY TOO MUCH ENERGY pointing their guns at the poor Fusionites. I'd hate to be them right now. The E has massive market muscle, and piles of dough. It will be very hard to push them off if they are as serious about destroying Fusion as they appear. All I can think is that Fusion rebuffed a buyout. EMC can hold a grudge forever.