HP's Léo Apotheker: We're heading to the cloud

In an exclusive interview, HP's new CEO expands on his strategy and offers frank assessments of his competition

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Gallant: How much of a cultural shift is it for you, from running a software company to working what's largely been a hardware-centric company?

Apotheker: It's been pretty easy. Both of them touch essential parts of the IT stack. You can't really be a good software executive if you don't understand something about hardware -- that's what you need to run the software. And I don't think you can be a good hardware executive if you don't understand the software. So I've been learning a lot about the hardware, and it's great. It's a great technology. I am much more fluent today than I was four months ago, that's for sure.

Eric Knorr: So now comes the part where we try to find out a little more detail about the cloud announcements of yesterday. The three parts appear to be infrastructure as a service, platform as a service, and an application store.

Apotheker: And connectivity.

Knorr: Connectivity as part of a cloud offering? Maybe we could start there because I'm not quite sure what you mean by that as a cloud offering.

Apotheker: Well, you're right, it's probably not the purest definition of the term a "cloud offering," but I think these two worlds are coming together. The mobile world and the cloud world are kind of blurring together, and if you can't provide connectivity for all of the things that are happening in the cloud, you could almost wonder, why bother to have a cloud in the first place?

I mean yes, there is scalability. Yes, there is dynamic flexing, and yes, there are all of these nice things. But one of the other great advantages of the cloud is that if you combine this with networks, you have the capability to consume and render and input into the clouds from mobile devices, which I think is going to be a megatrend as we move forward.

Knorr: So beyond unified communications?

Apotheker: Oh yeah. Just go to the rapidly developing, fast-growing economies in the world. People just jump a bunch of generations and are immediately mobile.

Knorr: So at the press conference you said the infrastructure as a service capability is available as we speak?

Apotheker: Yes, for enterprise customers.

Knorr: So that means you're offering hosting or Amazon-like capabilities to enterprise customers now?

Apotheker: We have many enterprise customers who want to use infrastructure as a service for a whole bunch of purposes -- a myriad of purposes -- and that service is available as we speak for enterprise customers. We're going to make that available as a public cloud as well, but for our enterprise customers that service is available.

Knorr: So that would be the first to be rolled out?

Apotheker: Yes.

Knorr: And you mentioned that you didn't really need to build out the infrastructure to support this infrastructure as a service, that it was already built. So is this part of a secret project before you started? Is it a gain from consolidation of resources? Or is it an announcement more to repurpose existing infrastructure? Where did that infrastructure come from?

Apotheker: With the exception to the secret plan, all of the above.

Gallant: Is there a name for the infrastructure service?

Apotheker: Not yet, no.

Knorr: Any notion of the development environments that will be available on the platform as a service?

Apotheker: Yes. Basically all of them. All of the development environments that the developers like to use: Java, Ruby on Rails, et cetera.

Knorr: You spoke about helping customers get to a hybrid public/private cloud model. How will you help companies do that?

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