HP wants to rock services world

CHICAGO – In a move that would be a surprise to few in the industry, Hewlett-Packard Co. declared itself a services company at its annual user conference Wednesday.

HP president Carly Fiorina wasn’t actually on hand for HP World 2001, but in a pre-recorded video feed she told attendees that HP wants to be the company to meet their IT needs now and over the long term.

From there, Ann Livermore, president of HP’s services business, took the stage to outline the company’s vision of where the IT industry is heading and, according to Livermore, it’s all about business transformation.

“You can’t separate business success from IT success anymore,” she said. “The two are inextricable.”

Livermore outlined a three-pronged approach that she said will position HP to help companies with business transformation: the building and deploying of an “always on Internet infrastructure”, the creation of e-services which handles transactions, computing power and information exchange on as needed basis, and the development of intelligent, connected devices and environments.

“We’ll see the emergence of a new computing architecture — we call it service-centric computing — where technology resources that people need, such as processing devices, storage devices, are all delivered as services,” said Livermore. “Computing, storage, applications. . . they’re going to be delivered, they’re going to be metered, they’re going to be purchased as services.” The future of IT will see the blending of the physical and digital worlds, she added. “This is really part of the evolution of connected environments.”

Lynn Anderson, vice-president of marketing, business for HP Canada, said the company has always had a services component to it. Most customers who purchase HP’s Unix server offerings usually buy accompanying consulting services, for example. “We’ve always had a heavy services bent,” she said, “but we haven’t gone to market with a service-centric message.”

Although many customers have contact with HP through a variety of product lines, “our customers do see us as more than a hardware vendor,” said Anderson.

HP is not the first company to put forward this idea of service centric computing. In May, IBM unveiled its Web services vision, a strategy that is permeating both its Tivoli and Lotus brands, and Microsoft’s soon-to-be-release XP operating system and revamped licensing system has been part of strategy to deliver software to customers as a service.

Focusing on services has helped IBM weather the current economic downturn, while Compaq Computer has made moves to transform its image from that of a PC vendor to a services company.

In other HP World developments, the company announced it will begin selling its own version of Linux. HP’s version would be an ultra-secure and would end its reliance partner distribution.

HP and other major hardware vendors often bundle a version of the open source OS from Linux OS developers, but HP said its customers are looking for a more secure version of the software that can run on their Web servers. HP will make its Linux distribution available on its servers as well as other non-HP hardware that passes qualification tests.

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