Moving to software is hard(ware) to do
Dan Vesset, vice president of business analytics research at IDC, says HP is known primarily as a hardware company in the enterprise, so it’s got an “uphill battle” to gain market share in software. HP’s still recovering from its $11.7 billion purchase of Autonomy in 2011; HP eventually wrote off $8.8 billion of value from Autonomy. Soon after the purchase Youngjohns – a veteran of Microsoft - was brought in to help reshape the company's software strategy.
Vesset says HP is going up against stalwarts in the data software market like IBM, Oracle and SAP, each of which have strong database engines and large install bases.
“(HP) has a lot of the pieces needed, and they’re going in the right direction,” Vesset said with respect to the company’s product offerings. There is still a slight bit of unknown because of the pending break-up of the company though. HP’s ability to drive software sales based on existing hardware sales is an advantage though, Vesset notes.
Perhaps an even larger threat to HP than its traditional competitors is the advent of cloud-based analytics services from vendors like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Compute Engine.
For organizations like startups who already have a lot of data stored in a cloud platform, doing data analytics and processing in the cloud is a natural choice. Cloud-platforms like AWS and Google also have powerful machines that can be spun up and down as needed to crunch data. HP’s Helion cloud offering has struggled to gain market share; it wasn’t even included as a competitor to AWS, Google and Microsoft Azure in research firm Gartner’s latest IaaS Magic Quadrant report.
But the cloud doesn't work for everyone, and HP seems to be targeting customers who still want to control their own infrastructure and not port data into the cloud. CB Bohn is a senior database engineer at Etsy, the online retailer, which uses AWS for some search-related functions and some Hadoop workloads. But the company’s primary data analysis tools are managed by Etsy staff and hosted in a collocation facility. Bohn says Etsy buys commodity hardware and uses the collo facility for workloads that have constant demand for data and analytics. This is the “own the base, rent the spike” model: Cloud platforms are good for one-off jobs and unexpected high-capacity workloads. But the everyday data and processing can potentially be done more efficiently on in-house equipment tuned specifically to those workloads.
The bottom line is HP will be counting on customers like Etsy and CI to help it stave off the significant headwinds facing its business as it embarks on its restructuring journey.
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