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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Knorr: Verticalized applications.

Apotheker: Verticalized, superverticalized, or very geographically specific or any combination of the above. By the way, if we're doing this really well, then our open cloud app store, enterprise app store, could actually be a great way for our partners to make more money, because suddenly they have a much wider market for whatever intellectual property they would create.

Gallant: I want to talk about the network space. Over the past couple of years, HP has done a really good job bringing the networking group tighter into the fold and getting more value out of that for customers. What do you see as key to competing and winning in the network space right now against the Junipers and the Ciscos of the world?

Apotheker: The good news is we must be doing something right, because quarter after quarter after quarter after quarter, we are gaining substantial market share. We have great technology. We cover a lot of space when it comes to networking. Our price-performance ratio must be very optimal because we just -- forgive me the expression -- but we, to use the American vernacular, "beat the crap" out of the competition. And that's good, we'll continue doing that.

One of the reasons why we're capable of doing this is not just because our networking gear is so good; it's also because we have this converged infrastructure approach, where people don't just buy networking with storage or service, that you buy the whole solution -- which is what they really want. And because it's all optimized internally as well, it has a double-whammy effect. So far, so good, and we'll continue down the same path. We'll continue to innovate in our networking gear of course, just to keep the competitive advantage. And we can go many places.

Gallant: How would you respond when people like [John] Chambers or others say that really the threat from HP is just a lower-priced alternative -- it's not a strategic alternative for customers in networking?

Apotheker: That's an interesting argument. With all respect to John, if we can do the same thing at a cheaper price than what he does, why wouldn't that be a strategic alternative? Help me understand what is a strategic alternative then?

Gallant: I think he's talking around things like fabric architectures and the vision of the next-generation data center network.

Apotheker: That's what we're talking about converged infrastructure, except that we have it. He's still in the PowerPoint version.

Gallant: Speaking of Cisco in the server market, is it a threat or an annoyance to HP?

Apotheker: Neither.

Gallant: Can you expand?

Apotheker: We hardly ever see them.

Gallant: They claim that sales are growing pretty rapidly of the UCS system, but you're not seeing them in competitive situations?

Apotheker: They must be selling on planet Zircon.

Gallant: How do you spell Zircon?

Apotheker: Any way you want.

Gallant: How are you weaving 3Com assets into the overall story?

Apotheker: 3Com is totally integrated into our networking capabilities. The guys in ESSN [Enterprise Servers, Storage, and Networking] under Dave Donatelli's leadership are doing a great job. It is now really selling extremely well as a stand-alone solution, but it fits beautifully into our converged infrastructure as well. We do really get a double-whammy effect.

We are quite capable of using our 3Com capabilities when we talk about next-generation data centers that we actually deliver. We have many customers that we are now bringing into the cloud or springing up private clouds in less than 30 days. And part of it is, of course, also attributable to 3Com.

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