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HP Gets With the (Developer) Program. CEO pimps PaaS, NoSQL

I got back yesterday from a couple of days at the HP Analyst Summit in SF. Its been a really tough week personally- an eye injury made the trip far less fun that it might have been. Given my vision is blurry, I will try and keep this post short and too the point.

Firstly, its time to dust off my trusted “blimey, the CEO is pimping Ruby” meme.  In his opening keynote new HP CEO Leo Apotheker said that HP planned to build both a public cloud, and also, specifically, a Platform as a Service offering.

"We want to be a PaaS company"- we’ll have a complete suite for developers."

Public cloud Infrastructure As a Service (IaaS) is to be expected from HP as a way to sell servers and storage – PaaS not so much. HP’s history in middleware is chequered to say the least, and PaaS is modern shorthand for middleware in the stack burger. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to glean any technical details at all about the PaaS offering during the event, so it might have just been CEOware – but CTO Shane Robison had a notable chart, showing not just PaaS, but multi-language PaaS. Java and .NET you’d absolutely expect from HP – Ruby, Python and Javascript not so much. In terms of customer demand Robison was clear:

“Customers asking HP for public cloud support. Customers asking for more sophisticated billling support”

Game on Amazon AWS.

But back to Leo: he also made an extremely aggressive anti-Oracle statement, which any modern web developer would absolutely recognise:

"traditional relational databases are becoming less and less relevant to the future stack". 

The call to NoSQL is a wakeup call because unlike IBM, Oracle and Microsoft, HP doesn’t have a relational database franchise to protect. Sure it sells a boatload of servers to run relational databases, but its not locked in from a customer information perspective. HP and VMware are in a similar situation here, and its worth reading my post about VMware in the post-relational era for more context.

What might the era of Oracle database offload look like? Something like this probably- see my case study from The Guardian Newspaper. Oracle is great for transactional workloads- we all know that – but it should not be the default choice for all data storage. Oracle is overly heavyweight, and demands design time data model decision-making which makes very little sense in an age of linked data, used and reused in new contexts. Its also just too expensive to be used as a straightforward a bucket of bits; MySQL is more appropriate for that role – but developers are moving on when it comes to graph and document databases. Check out my client Neo4J, for example, as a modern, made for purpose, graph store. But the web is churning out a host of interesting new stores- Cassandra is a speedy key value store database built and open sourced by web companies. Though I am sure HP will be aggressively pushing its own Vertica database for column-oriented apps, one of the first acquisitions of the Leo era, there are surely more acquisitions to come. It seems highly likely it will make a play for Hadoop master packager, our client Cloudera.

Anyway I seem to be getting off topic. Suffice to say HP is now having the kind of conversation that RedMonk is interested in. Less silence, more interesting.

But of course HP’s posture to developers needs to change dramatically, it needs to lean in, rather than back (there is nothing puts off developers faster than disinterest) and there are hints that this is happening. Posture comes from the CEO down, and Apotheker definitely understands the value of rich ecosystems like the SAP Developer Network. HP is going to invest heavily here, which will be good for the company. And yes- to be self-serving just for a second, it could well be good for RedMonk. HP now looks like a potential major client, in a way it really didn’t just a few months ago.

And I haven’t even mentioned Palm and webOS yet. Without developers Palm will be a total waste of shareholder money. But the webOS SDK is something developers like, and it makes porting reasonably easy for mobile apps built with some web technology.

 

Another thing developers like is performance. I met one of my friends from Facebook on the plane over and he dismissed Palm with a curt: “performance sucks”. Evidently he hasn’t seen the Touchpad- dear lord that thing was screaming in the demos.

I didn’t spent that long on webOS at the event, frankly, mostly because we’re already hooked up with its developer relations folks, and I already know the platform and potential plays pretty well. Talking of posture: I recently introduced one of my contacts to the team – a French entrepreneur/engineer in the XMPP messaging space – and practically bit my hand off in terms of setting up a meeting with him in Sunnyvale.

Man this post is getting long. Other things to mention – ALM 11 looks pretty solid. Rational is going to need to up its game, because HP is in good shape there. One way HP moved forward really quickly is by signing a deal with another RedMonk client TaskTop Technologies- which is making ALM less painful by using pointer based approaches to integrate with existing tools, rather than taking the traditional ALM vendor approach of forcing all development metadata into a single repository. CEO Mik Kersten is a disciple of flow, and he hates anything that gets in the developers way. It was funny talking to Jonathan Rende, of the old “BTO” school, the guy in charge of ALM – he was totally straightforward. He traditional sold to ops, and didn’t really care about developers that much, but things had changed. As per his keynote:

"i see a collision happening between agile and ITIL." Jonathan Rende

HP is responding to the world of devops, agile and The Developer Landgrab. Developers are of course the new kingmakers.

 

I am going to sign off here – without writing up some of the interesting tools I saw at the event like HP Sprinter or IT-Hive (putting a face on operations) – but perhaps what struck me most clearly after the event? Leo Apotheker got the sole CEO job at SAP just as the global economy went to hell, and he paid the price. Today however, the economy is heating up, and HP has some great assets to get behind. Apotheker seems to have taken on the biggest job in tech at just the right time.

Now he just needs to get busy on sustainability, but that’s definitely a different post.

HP is not a subscription client, but paid T&E. Apache is a client – Cassandra is a project there. IBM is a client, Microsoft is too. We do some work with SAP.

 

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Comment Feed

16 Responses

  1. James – excellent assessment, as always. HP may be a little late to the IaaS market, but with the resources, both in the core tech and the HP services folks (EDS to you and me) it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them succeed. The PaaS angle is very interesting. With vmware having snapped up Spring and Salesforce gobbling up Heroku, I think there are limited options for HP to make hay in this landgrab. A couple of outside options are they go after Gigaspaces and / or AppEngine – I don’t think they have time to build it themselves. Even further out is they snap up the fledgling DotCloud tech and throw a stack of cash at accelerating the tech. As cool as any of that would be, my gut feel is that HP might court Microsoft to do two things – one to provide an Azure layer on top of their own IaaS offering to give customers “an extra option” for turning IaaS into PaaS and two, to combine a hardware plus software offering for enterprises (and maybe other service providers) to host their own PaaS, with HP servers and storage the willing underbelly – all zippered with the HP Services support. I might be wrong….

    Christian ReillyMarch 19, 2011 @ 12:31 amReply
  2. I’m not sure that “spring” is a landgrab. It’s very good for in system stuff, way better than Java EE is/was, and the Spring team haven’t stepped on as many toes as Oracle have done. Yet the moment spring starts targeting VM ware hosted images and EMC storage only, they lose a big chunk of support.

    What would make sense for spring is to have an in-app aPI for talking to VM monitoring and deployment services, independent from EC2, which VMWare and others -including HP- can support. The obvious choice is Apache Whirr, but there are others. The key thing is you don’t want to commit in your app to a specific infrastructure, as then you are owned by the infrastructure the way Oracle own your data today.

    (disclaimer, HP employee, Whirr mentor, personal opinions only, etc)

  3. HP has it’s own relation database system, and has enormous profits from it. It is called SQL/MX (SQL/MP) and runs on heavy HP HA hardware, i.e. HP NonStop. Sold to banks for big, really big money. Oracle is pocket change in comparison.

    All that buzz about NoSQL is an attempt to undermine the growing power of Oracle which now starting to feel simply scary.

    Well, another hipe, another thing to be gone in two years…

    • @vlad nonstop is good business for sure, but its not so much a relational business as a transactional one. its worth a LOT of money but hardly dwarfs Oracle database revenues. HP can ring fence nonstop and still go after Oracle on the relational side.

      James GovernorApril 4, 2011 @ 3:42 pmReply



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Continuing the Discussion

  1. [...] an analyst event last month HP CEO Leo Apotheker said "Traditional relational databases are becoming less and less relevant to the future stack." Major [...]

  2. [...] an analyst event last month HP CEO Leo Apotheker said "Traditional relational databases are becoming less and less relevant to the future stack." Major [...]

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  7. [...] Derrick Harris questioned whether Cloudera was allying its way to an acquisition. Earlier this year RedMonk co-founder and analyst James Governor wrote that it was "highly likely" that HP would make a play for [...]

  8. [...] its way to an acquisition. Earlier this year RedMonk co-founder and analyst James Governor wrote that it was “highly [...]

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