HP’s Problem? It Ain’t the SAP Install…

So we all saw that HP had a bad week. My bet? It’s only going to get worse – and it has nothing to do with their SAP implementation.

Personally, all cards on the table, I’m a fan of their CEO – I think she demonstrates courage, is willing to buck conventional wisdom, and has a titanium spine. (Last week’s public firings notwithstanding.)

But that said, I think HP faces an enormous challenge. And it’s not related to the cancellation of PA-RISC, or weakness in their Itanium transition. Or even Dell’s printer onslaught.

To me, HP’s problems spawn from the death of… their operating system, HP/UX. Like IBM, they’ve elected to ask their customers and ISV’s to move to Red Hat Linux or Microsoft Windows on x86 systems. And if you’re an ISV, how does that differentiate HP? – they’re a box vendor. If you’re a customer, where does that leave you with your HP/UX investments? Facing untimely change – with a vendor no longer in charge of their OS.

On the hardware side, Sun, IBM, Dell and HP will all vigorously compete for the x86 hardware space. I’m confident our industry standard Opteron systems will lead everyone in price/performance – especially in multi-processing environments. But as Fowler points out, that’s just the box side of the equation. On top of that, our systems story will have one big advantage, an advantage spawning from the fact that a server without an operating system is a space heater.

As you well know, our operating system, Solaris, continues to set land speed records on SPARC, while branching into new territory on x86 – and it’s the least expensive in the industry. I continue to hear customers disappointed in the realization that ISV’s don’t qualify to “linux” (or specifically, Fedora) – so they have to pay big bucks for RHEL if they want commercial support. And while HP stumbles into that reality, our commitment to Solaris (did I mention we’re open sourcing it – check out http://www.blastwave.org) highlights the demise of HP/UX. HP/UX won’t even run on HP’s own industry standard servers. As an ISV told me last week, “I come to sun, you tell me to write to Java, then write to Solaris. Clear as a bell.” If you’re an HP customer or ISV, have some fun, ask your HP rep the same question – “what should I write to?”

While HP tells its customers to “change” (we’re still not sure ‘to’ what, I’m more comfortable with the ‘from’ part), we’re going to continue redoubling our investment (with partners, too) in super scalable SPARC systems, the fastest industry standard servers in the market – and the only commercial operating system deployed at scale in both environments. Because no matter what the ads say, what customers don’t want is unnecessary… change.

We hear consistently that what they do want is a vendor committed to its operating system roadmap.

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