HP delivers ‘bad news’ to rivals at Barcelona showcase

Firm makes a bet on smaller servers and resurgent PC sales

In a keynote address that emphasised her company's innovation "DNA" – and which veered between discussions of 3D printing and the cloud to a video of Harrison Ford speaking about the tropical forests of Ecuador – Hewlett Packard chief executive, Meg Whitman's one key message to the HP Discover conference in Barcelona this week was the company "is here to stay".

A year ago, HP was still reeling from the disastrous $10.2 billion (€7.39 billion) acquisition of infrastructure technology firm Autonomy.

However, amidst a plethora of enterprise product announcements and with recent financial results showing a 2 per cent bounce in enterprise group revenue, the chief executive’s outlook in the Catalan capital was decidedly positive.

"We helped build the IT world of today and we're helping create the IT world of tomorrow," Whitman preached from the main stage of the gargantuan Fira Barcelona Conference Centre to over 10,000 delegates for the conference, which finished yesterday.

Exciting times
Clare-based, Bryan Madden, geo manager for Intel's communications and storage infrastructure group watched on and said Whitman's speech reflected "exciting times for HP in a number of different aspects", though particularly in terms of the company's data-focused offerings.


As visitors talked shop and grabbed conference freebies from event sponsors such as Microsoft, Accenture, Intel, Citrix, SAP and Red Hat, speeches from Whitman and her colleagues aggressively pressed the case for the company's new storage and server releases.

Indeed, announcing details of virtualisation storage servers such as the Converged Systems 700 and 300, David Scott, senior vice-president and general manager of the company's converged systems division said "it's been a bad day for EMC and Cisco".

While Whitman didn’t name names in terms of rivals, much of her keynote speech revolved the company’s new Moonshot microserver range – something they hope can help solve some pressing issues for the world’s data centres as they cope with the crush of information heading their way from an ever-increasing amount of devices and applications.

According to Whitman: "On any given day, the world posts one billion pieces of content to Facebook, generates 200 million Tweets and creates information using cameras, sensors, GPS-enabled devices and transaction systems – and it all goes to the cloud." With such pressure focused on the world's data centres, Whitman said: "I think everyone in this room knows that the path we're on is not sustainable in terms of space, energy or cost."

The former eBay chief executive detailed how data centres already consume 2 per cent of the world's electricity, equating to "five times the amount of energy per year" consumed by Spain.

Moonshot though, she said, will offer “89 per cent less energy, 80 per cent less space and costs 77 per cent less cost” than a traditional server, and can “revolutionise the energy economics of the data centre”.

John Henshaw, the company's executive vice president of technology and operations was then invited on stage to explain how Moonshot's compressed form factor means the company will likely "never build another data centre again".

Will all this mean development projects such as Microsoft’s recent announcement of a €170 million expansion to its Dublin “mega data centre” will become a thing of the past?

John Williams of the servers and business unit of chipmakers AMD told The Irish Times that while "the last thing" data centre owners want "is to build new data centre space", legacy systems and different workload needs mean "the whole market isn't going to just transition" over to HP's new offering, which both Intel AMD had a hand in developing as well.

Intel’s Madden added, that “there’ll be a co-existence between classical data centre architecture and Moonshot” from here onward, adding, “there’s a big problem in the market with regards to the amount of data coming into the market and how you manage and orchestrate it”, something which “companies across the industry” are trying to negotiate.

Aside from data-heavy developments, the video address from Indiana Jones star Ford was to announce HP's partnership with Conservation International to create Earth Insights, an extinction "early warning system" for 275 species in 16 tropical forests located in countries such as Malaysia and the Republic of Congo.

While on the more day-to-day product front, new mini-desktops, laser printers and notebooks were announced during the event, including the enterprise level multi-touch HP Elitebook Folio 1040 which the company's general manager for business personal systems, Enrique Lores threw to the ground dramatically at a press event to emphasis its sturdy aluminium chassis which is, he said, "military grade".

While the PC market has been consistently shrinking in the past two years, HP managing director for EMEA, Herbert Koeck told The Irish Times "Q4 results the personals systems group and PC part of the company has delivered a 3 per cent operating profit" and that the market had actually "stabilised".

“We going to innovate on form factors, tablets, hybrids, notebooks, desktops, we are innovating around the operating system.

"You're going to see devices of ours around Android, on Google Chrome, on Windows," added Koeck.