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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Apotheker: I think there will be as many combinations of these three elements between traditional and on-premise private clouds, public clouds, semi-public clouds, as there are enterprises. And one of the reasons where things don't go straight into the cloud is the legacy of the applications. Some of these applications would be very hard to move into the cloud if you don't want to provoke a rainstorm and the cloud collapses.

HP has already a lot of experience in helping customers make these decisions, make the trade-offs, and then help people move into these hybrid environments. We actually create hardware and software to manage hybrid environments. Some of our technology allows people to have a complete end-to-end vision of all of these mixed architectures and operate them as one. We have a real competitive advantage in doing that.

We can do it rather easily because we have no legacy on the application side, so we have nothing to protect. We have no database to protect or whatever, and therefore we can actually take a very neutral and customer-centric view on what is the best solution for the customer. And that's what we're all about.

Gallant: Specifically on that front, I wanted to ask you -- does the set of offerings from EDS change around helping customers get to those hybrid cloud environments?

Apotheker: So in order to respect my branding people, EDS doesn't exist anymore.

Gallant: Your services arm.

Apotheker: HP Enterprise Services. And yes, the offerings of HP services have been evolving quite substantially since the original acquisition of EDS. Right now we have trained many people at EDS to better understand our converged infrastructure, to operate Matrix software, [to learn] our cloud enablement capabilities. We want to do workshops with customers, help them understand the potential of cloud, and then decide which for them is the best route. Moving forward, usually we also then act as the technology partner for that customer.

Knorr: In the broad portfolio of capabilities that you've presented, it seems to overlap almost 100 percent with what IBM is doing. How do you intend to differentiate your strategy from IBM's approach?

Apotheker: I would qualify it slightly differently: IBM overlaps 100 percent with us. I mean, HP has been doing these things for years -- we didn't really call them out this way -- but this is nothing really that revolutionary or new.

But we actually have one, if not two, strategic advantages over IBM. One is we understand the consumer business, so therefore we understand the endpoint devices. And that is a huge advantage, which IBM has given away when they sold their PC business to Lenovo. And secondly, we have deep insight into security and manageability, which helps us to secure and manage the entire stack in cloud -- and that is a second immense advantage that we have over IBM. We are agnostic to a certain number of technologies, which they are not, by definition, and therefore we can really optimize the best solution. We can mix and match, and that gives us a significant advantage as well.

And maybe last, but not least, we don't have any legacy to protect, so we can really leapfrog to the leading edge and we don't have to worry about cannibalizing this or the other part of our legacy software business because in that space we don't have enough.

Gallant: I want to drill down into a couple of areas regarding IBM. One is your cloud strategy versus theirs, both companies talking about helping customers get to that next evolution of IT. Your approach differs from theirs in what respect?

Apotheker: I don't know, you should ask them.

Gallant: We have spoken to IBM on many occasions.

Knorr: Well, they don't really have a public cloud offering.

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