HP lets Hurd battle its own Unix business
December 3, 2010
Under the heading of Things We'd Never Expect, how about the news yesterday that Sun -- er, Oracle -- will be making leaps to give the Solaris OS a way to attack the HP-UX? Chief soldier in this Solaris 11 assault via technology and R&D? None other than HP's ousted CEO Mark Hurd, now leading the charge to take Business Critical Systems customers off the HP rosters.
Oracle has big plans for its Unix alternative, the "free" Solaris Express, too. With the Nov. 15 rollout, "Oracle is preparing for the planned availability of Oracle Solaris 11 in 2011 by releasing Solaris 11 Express, to provide customers with access to the latest Solaris 11 technology." In its Solaris 11 Express it's using a business model similar to HP's own now, the new era when Hewlett-Packard will be selling HP-UX but makes you buy a support license. (To be fair, you could always buy this "enterprise-class" HP environment without HP support. Good luck getting the patches you will need to survive security holes, or the ones that add functionality that's not strictly security-related. Independent support firms can help in that challenge, however.)
Oracle offers this new non-commercial version of Linux, but its Unix environment is only licensed if you're a Solaris support customer via Oracle. None of this barracuda competition can be good news for HP, which has been scratching for new HP-UX installs for a long time. The sale of 400 Superdome 2 servers made a nice spike in the report for the BCS group in Q4 2010, but that might be a limited-scope success. Superdomes are a long way from the typical server capacity for the classic HP 3000 shop migrating to Unix.
Hurd's new work is a genuine surprise, not the winemaking or politics that the last two CEOs drifted into as they left the industry. It's among the reasons you want to keep an eye on your HP market, even if you're just making your Transition toward options that don't include HP.
Ex-HP CEO selling against HP weeks after ouster: This one took even HP's lawyers by surprise, and they're an anxious bunch of anticipators. Mark Hurd got himself fired by HP on Aug. 6, then hired up by HP competitor Oracle - Sun's new owner - on Sept. 7. Right, just one day after the deadline for HP to withdraw a $12 million golden parachute from Hurd. Sun's now got a new sales leader to barracuda-bite HP's sagging Unix business. Hurd becomes the first ex-CEO to retire to something other than winemaking, writing or politics. HP got back $16 million in stock options, but will lose a lot more in Unix sales to this fellow embracing Larry Ellison's barracuda behavior, after B-actress-bounding during the year before.
Elephant seal rookery and drugstore ducks in Cambria: If that sounds like an epic poem title, the afternoon of our last full day of a 20th Anniversary vacation looked like an epic nature safari. This little village halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles boasts a drugstore with the world's biggest collection of themed floating toy ducks - something that a couple floating in their 50s and 60s, with two new grandkids, could scarcely resist buying out. Add in the only active rookery of elephant seals, endangered, majestic and playful, right up the road on a protected beach, and our choice of B&B became a revelation of a destination. We had no idea of either bonus treasure.
Fresh CEO dodges subpoena in first week at HP: After a search which took the board more than six weeks to skip over in-house replacements for Hurd, Hewlett-Packard refused to accept a court subpoena for its new CEO. Leo Apotheker was a surprise to nearly everyone in the world to take over the planet's largest computer company. But so little diligence was done that HP couldn't see an Oracle lawsuit scheduled over damages from Apothker's last CEO stop, SAP. “Where in the world is Leo Apotheker?” the wags joked in his first week, with sightings around HP offices well outside the venue of Oracle's suit.
(We'd pause here to add that HP boardroom scruples don't really surprise us any longer, but that would be undercutting the surprise - which is really that HP can't seem to hire for its top spot from inside anymore. Never knew we'd miss Lew Platt, rest in peace.)
NewsWire enters 16th year: This month marks HP's sayonara to sales and support of the server. It's been nine years since that day that HP announced its exit, 50 percent longer than our publishing period pre-exit. We never expected this to be a 15-year ride back in 1995, but much longer odds were given for those extra nine years after 2001. Our readers have been cautious, patient and still proceed at a pace we predicted when the last decade was new. As we pass into 2011, we expect more unexpected stories. It's a good reason, as with any saga, to keep turning the pages.