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HP seeks enterprise software cred

Data center pros like what they see of HP software, but weak marketing and sales efforts hurt the brand.

Hewlett-Packard wants to be considered an enterprise software power. And by all rights, with its Business Technology Optimization (BTO) lineup; legacy OpenView franchise; and its recent acquisitions of Arcsight, Stratavia, and Tipping Point, the HP software brand should carry more weight than it does, according to data center pros.

Kipp Bertke illustrates HP’s problem.

“When I think of HP from a software perspective, I think, ‘Ok, they have OpenView,’ but then I found out that they have BTO suite, and I didn’t even know they had that. They aren’t marketing it very hard,” said Bertke, IT manager for the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities. Bertke has bought loads of HP BladeSystem and rack servers and networking gear, so he should be a prime candidate for HP software pitches. And yet he barely knows anything about the products.

Other IT pros agreed that the term “enterprise software” does not spring to mind when HP is mentioned.

“In terms of software, we’re more aligned with CA and IBM than we are with HP. I’ve never had them pitch any piece of software, except once, with a VAR that tried to sell us Matrix,” said Kent Altena, technical engineer with a midwestern insurance company, and an HP server shop. Probably not surprisingly, his company has not purchased HP software.

One longtime HP customer, a CTO for a Midwestern financial services company, said HP will not only need to incorporate what it already has in its software portfolio into a simpler, rational story, but also to buy even more software. In his view, HP should buy CA or BMC -- a move that would establish it firmly in the enterprise software firmament.

HP software priority: Fix the brand
Part of the HP software problem relates to focus and branding. Everyone used to know HP OpenView -- a premier name in systems management. But HP relabeled the entire product set.

The HP website brought up by Google search on “HP OpenView”  states: “HP OpenView technology now forms the foundation of several software solutions. Although the names of these offerings have changed, the product architecture remains intact, but with enhanced functionality.” 

The portfolio is split among event management, operations management, network management, application management and service desk offerings. The SiteScope and Insight brands remain, but “OpenView” is gone.

The good news is that HP appears to be aware of its problem.

Last month, at the company’s Americas Partner Conference (APC) in Las Vegas, several company execs spoke of the need to enlist HP hardware resellers and integrators into the HP software fold and also of making sense of a very diverse -- some might say scattered -- product portfolio.

At APC, Stephen DiFranco, vice president and general manager of HP’s Americas partner organization, acknowledged that in an interview. “It’s a hell of a challenge. We have an inventory of software but not necessarily an end-to-end portfolio. Things were purchased for lots of good reasons and [Bill] Veghte has a lot of experience building a portfolio and putting it together. I’m interested in hearing what he and Leo have been speaking about -- clearly Leo [Apotheker] knows a little about software and the issue is to bring all these pieces together.”

Bill Veghte is the former Microsoft executive brought in a year ago as executive vice president of HP’s software and solutions business. Leo Apotheker became HP’s CEO last November.

Priority 2: Enlist HP hardware partners
HP Software’s position is not helped by a lack of a channel focus on software. At APC, Veghte pointed out that only 12% of HP partners have ever sold a software license and implored them to get up to speed on HP’s lines if only to boost their own margins.

He claimed Arcsight as the top-selling security event monitoring software, which could ease customer concerns about cloud computing. “The primary reason people aren’t moving faster to cloud is worry about service-level agreements,” he said.  HP’s acquisition of TippingPoint also gives it a head start in intrusion prevention and HP is very strong in application life cycle management.

While HP’s hardware sales force appears unwilling or unable to pitch HP software, HP servers already act as something like a Trojan Horse for HP’s Insight software. That software, in turn, can act as a bridge to the larger BTO stack, said Leigh Carpenter, director of strategic services at Nth Generation, a San Diego-based HP partner and IT specialist.

“None of my blades go out the door without Insight and up till now there wasn’t a good story about how Insight ties into HP BTO. With CloudSystem Matrix, we can tie them together,” she said.

Still, HP has to connect the dots in its software portfolio, come up with a coherent brand, and get both its direct sales and channel partners fully aboard the software bandwagon, said longtime HP watchers.

One mid-Atlantic partner has made a pretty good “after market” business selling HP software, but only after he’s already sold servers and networking gear. “What we sell is the various cloud system and other element managers,” he said.

“The story there is good tools, crummy marketing. They’re not always the most complete solution and may need some development to make them whole, but CA, BMC and others have tools that are equally flawed but better marketed,” he said.

Bottom line? HP software has a long row to hoe, according to IT buyers and sellers alike. “In spite of what Apotheker says, HP is a hardware company and it will take a long time to change that,” said one longtime HP Elite partner in New England.  “However, I have always been impressed with Bill Veghte, and think he is an asset in building this business.”

Let us know what you think about the story; email Barbara Darrow, Senior News Director at, or follow us on twitter.

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