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Hurd mentality slips into Oracle's boardroom

Ousted HP CEO Mark Hurd now has a new job title: President of Sales and Marketing for a mighty HP competitor. Hurd was named as one of two co-presidents of Oracle yesterday, less than a month after his unceremonious resignation from HP.

Update: HP has filed a suit to block Hurd's appointment to the Oracle executive team. The suit was filed in Superior Court of California in Santa Clara, The lawsuit centers around a confidentiality provision in Hurd's $28 million exit agreement from HP.

Oracle's CEO Larry Ellison was vocal about the HP board's mistake in letting Hurd go, a departure triggered by Hurd's business affairs with a marketing contractor with a Playboy layout in her resume. Hurd assumes a co-president's post vacated by Charles E. Phillips Jr -- who has left after an illicit affair gone so badly the woman bought billboard space to advertise the entanglement.

So as Hurd tries to slip into that already-warm seat at Oracle, HP enterprise computer customers face a new season of competition for their dollar. Not only can Oracle's new Sun unit bid for fresh Unix installations with a promise of extra-special system-database integration, but the deal will be offered by HP's latest CEO. The first part of that offer will sound familiar to a 3000 customer, even those migrating away. The HP 3000 found its first successes in the '70s with an advanced server-database integration design. And homesteading customers will continue to enjoy that integration, sans the moral dramas.

As for the second part of the offer -- a competing product, hawked by a just-cashiered CEO -- there's nothing remotely familiar to the 3000 user about that package. HP CEOs either retired to the likes of winemaking or politics, or found a place in venture capital or the graveyard. None of them have carried enough swagger or chops to step onto Larry Ellison's board, just 30 days after leaving with HP's $28 million resignation parachute. Ellison showed his admiration of Hurd with a tweet that called HP's ouster the worst move since Apple fired Steve Jobs in the 80s.

Hurd was admired by some segments of the HP enterprise customer and partner base. To be accurate, his results have been admired by those who did well to partner with an HP that boosted sales and profits during his tenure. Today that admiration needs to be extended to respect for a competitor, one who will surely take business away from HP's Business Critical Servers unit in the company's Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking operation. That's the group selling the non-Windows alternatives to the HP 3000.

Any industry event that makes an Integrity sale or re-investment tougher over the next two years will drag down the future of HP's Unix, OpenVMS and NonStop platforms. These are not parts of HP's portfolio which are growing. Oracle used to be one of HP's most trusted partners in the HP-UX space. With the arrival of an ousted CEO, selling a head-on alternative in Sun systems, that cooperation may be well and truly ended.

It hasn't been quite the fortnight HP planned in storage or enterprise leadership. The company spent $600 million more than it estimated to win away the 3Par cloud storage company away from arch-rival Dell. In the process of that bidding war, HP ran up the 3Par stock to about 80 percent of the HP share price, all for a company that lost hundreds of millions on its 2009 bottom line. (Stock update this AM: 3Par up to $32.80 from $8.62; HP's stock at $40, off 20 percent from Hurd's exit.)

But cloud storage seems to fit well with HP's maximum-flex enterprise strategy. A company with considerable egg on its board's face couldn't afford to lose a war with a PC maker so troubled that Dell was rumored to be going private. But now there's one more HP acquisition, and technology, to integrate into HP's enterprise offerings. There's also one less place for HP to develop using its own R&D.

When added to the rapid snap-up of the man who approved such HP M&A stretching, a customer migrating away from HP's 3000 line might hear something from their own board about strategies of alternative environments and their vendors. Oracle loves to buy companies, too -- it recently took on Sun to grab an enterprise OS, the world's most concentrated Java expertise, and the open source mySQL database which drives the likes of Craigslist.

Considering the indiscretions of Oracle's Phillips, Hurd's business affairs slipping into Oracle's mentality, and even the recent removal of Adult Services from Craigslist, there's may be a theme running around Oracle's enterprise endeavors. A tech-only focus for migration targets will miss this aspect altogether. But with HP spending to buy an unprofitable company and the morals-aside boardrooms at HP and Oracle, Windows is looking like a cleaner choice to the migrating customer. Unless you count security dirt -- but at least the patches for Windows remain a free resource. You might think of them as free love for the customer, as opposed to another kind of love in enterprise affairs.