In November I suggested that one role of the CIO in the cloud-focused enterprise is as the Chief Ecosytem Officer (CEO). The more that an enteprise builds its operations around services sourced from the cloud, the more that it will come to exploit a diversity of ICT capabilities provided by a diversity of suppliers – an ecosystem.

I then found myself, courtesy of a key contact in HP, attending the London launch of the new HP Enterprise (HPE) - ‘Discover 2015’ -  a three day mega-event at London’s ExCel. I have argued in earlier columns that HP should be broken up into better focused businesses – and it has happended! [Why did it take Meg Whitman so long to see the light?]

HP represents a very substantial (technology, experiential) resource at the heart of the contemporary global IT industry, so how it choses to reshape and re-position its business model is actually of great interest to us all. Here is my attempt at a critical analysys.

To start with the electronic hardware stuff (from printers to servers to personal computers) is now the responsibility of HP Inc.  In essence it is the software stuff that has been placed in HPE.

One inheritance of HPE is Helion, HP’s nascent cloud compute operations. Interestingly, Helion was given almost no publicity at Discover 2015. In contrast, the development of the partnership of HPE with Microsoft (Microsoft Azure) was centre stage on the opening day, with CEO Satya Nadella beamed in live to address the audience of well over 1,000 attendees. My sense, developed through conversations at Discover 2015 (and earlier in Barcelona at this year’s Eurocloud Europe Congress), is that HPE is positioning itself to be able to exploit a wider diversity of compute platforms than Helion alone – its prime business focus is on the SaaS/Apps layers above.

But Discover 2015 did see the launch of HPE Synergy, with its tag line of the composable infrastructure.  In the era of software-defined data storage, processing and networking, the ability to design, integrate, virtualise and automate delivery of innovative new services at the infrastructural level is a new competitive capability. Synergy is focused on its abilty to ‘enable the hybrid’, ‘ providing a single infrastructure for all applications and operational models, from traditional to cloud’.

An innovative venture that could be reshaping the infrastructure for Synergy to further exploit is the American startup Springpath – ‘the pioneer in hyperconvergence software, turning standard servers of choice into a single pool of compute and storage resources’. In October I met with CEO Terry Cunningham to debate his strategy for Springpath to sell to all server manufacturers on an open basis. A datacentre of servers that has eliminated the need for segregated data storage and that ‘intuitively integrates into existing management tools to maximise operational efficiency’ is a key step forward in development of the even more highly efficient and agile services factory!

HP Enterprise sets out its offer with four distinct foci: to Enable (workforce productivity); to Empower (in the data driven age); to Protect (the digital enterprise); and to Transform (to the hybrid infrastructure). It is positioning itself at the heart of a very extensive ecosystem of vendors whose ‘offers’ relate in one way or another to these four foci. One half of the Discover 2015 extensive floor space was in essence a trade fair for this ecosystem.  

This positions HPE as both a transformational agent for the enterprise, and an ecosystem broker to the enterprise. The four foci are certainly key elements of the cloud agenda for the contemporary enterprise. But they are not the only technology-related challenges faced, let alone the vital cultural and behavioural transformational challenges also faced.

I debated these issues with Mike Klaus, HPE’s Vice President & General Manager Global Applications & Program Excellence. I am clear that the  shaping of an effective cloud-related transformational journey for an Enterprise is a board responsibility. How will HPE influence an enterprise board to recognise this, and then to work to ‘define the transformational destination’’? The four key HPE foci play to HP’s depth of historic experience – but where does it find the experience to tackle this overarching agenda? Partnership with the likes of McKinsey, perhaps?

Here is a new world shaping. Highly virtulised and automated at the infrastructural level. Rapidly growing diversity of offers at the SaaS/Apps level – especially young ventures innovating from deep experiential intimacy with particular specialised verticals – the sourcing ecosystem! A vision of the contemporary enterprise - agile, market-responsive, cost-competitive, innovative – built from services assembled and integrated from the ecosystem.

I can see the emerging positioning of HP Enterprise in this new world. It certainly brings major strengths and experiential breadth to exploit. But I would judge its strategic re-think and re-positioning is only half done.