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Analyze that: Hewlett-Packard

As part of our "Analyze that" series, the Yankee Group Inc.'s senior analyst for Enterprise Computing and Networking, Jamie Gruener dissects Hewlett-Packard Co. In this interview with, Gruener analyzes what the company has done right this year, what products are carrying them and how storage managers should approach buying from HP.

Which of HP's products do you think will still be around in three years?
Is this meant to be a trick question? I would suggest most of HP's products will remain for the next three years, and HP has a long-standing policy of supporting products for some time after they discontinue them. However, it is likely HP may consider consolidating some of its higher end systems into one product line. I think overall there will be a consolidation of software products as well. A better question might be where do you think HP will add products and technologies. Can you give a brief overview of HP's product line as it relates to storage?
HP's storage product line ranges from entry-level storage arrays and NAS to midrange storage systems to enterprise-class storage products lines such as the XP and the Enterprise Virtual Array(EVA) disk systems. HP also has a broad range of OpenView and StorageWorks software, nearline/tape libraries and media, SAN infrastructure and storage professional services. Who or what do you see as HP's biggest threat?
HP's biggest threats on a system level - looking at companies with a broad breadth of storage, servers, and professional services - would be IBM. I would also point to EMC as their strongest overall threat in the storage market, especially since the beginning of 2003. Dell Computer also poises a different kind of threat: increasing the overall pricing pressure in the midrange storage system market, which would have a big impact not only on HP but IBM and Sun. Which products should the company think about discontinuing?
I'd like to be pragmatic and suggest that there will be a number of tape products as well as even its CASA platform that could be candidates for discontinuing - not to diminish the value of each but that customers may in the long term have more commoditized buying habits about both tape and storage virtualization. CASA will likely continue as a strong technology, but it will be better suited as part of an integrated product instead of a stand-alone appliance. And, as I suggested above, you will likely see both storage array product lines and storage software products consolidate - which I think will be a common trend at both HP and other storage companies. What has HP done this year to make itself a stronger company?
HP's Adaptive Enterprise vision that outlines its strategy to help customers shift their data centers to a utility approach certainly make HP a stronger company, provided they deliver against their technology roadmap there. It's been close to 18 months since the HP-Compaq merger, and HP has done a good job accelerating its StorageWorks business in the combined company. They also continued to invest and roll out new storage management products and several new storage arrays. How should storage managers approach buying from HP?
Storage managers need to look at the bigger picture: buying storage and servers from the same vendor can offer a significant number of advantages from a support perspective, as well as giving buyers more leverage with vendors. As for buying from HP today, now is good time as HP and others in this space have been increasingly aggressive on pricing.

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In which direction is HP headed? Do you think it's the right roadmap for the company's future success?
HP is definitely headed in the right direction. The merger of HP and Compaq created a much more powerful storage division, both hardware and software. But HP needs to continue to innovate, much like its competitors are. I expect we will see a number of new more aggressive product directions unveiled over the next six months.

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