As I wrote previously, I had the opportunity to go to the HP’s biggest European [enterprise] event of the year, Discover 2011, last week, held in the city of Vienna in Austria. To be honest, I did not really know what to expect since I’m not all that familiar with HP’s solutions in virtualization area and it was initially a little bit out-of-place experience for an application –focused guy like me.
And that’s exactly how it felt during the first day; the event was huge (about 7000 attendees and about 500 different sessions in three days!) and it was hard to grasp exactly what was going on in various different tracks and booths and whatnot. Before the event, I wrote about that the most interesting sounding tracks were the ones dealing with the Application Transformation issues (I will write more about that topic in a separate post at some point), so with that in mind I was set to look for more details in that particular area.
Overall I have to say that the event organization was by far the best I have seen in big IT conferences like this; to give you an example a conference badge doubled as Vienna public transportation ticket (there was underground station just next to the venue) and food service was better than the usual treatment we get in the Microsoft’s conferences etc. I guess the fact that the majority of attendees seemed to be dressed in business attire might have had something to do with the little bit different nature of the event, as compared to the usual “mostly IT folks” conferences ;-)
It really took the whole first day to be able to distinguish where everything was, especially since there was number of session slots throughout the day as well as the keynote session, which made us to wonder back and forth in the convention center. And by us I mean me and my fellow App-V MVP’s; Ruben, Ment, Falko and Nicke, who were also there:
One specific issue, what I think made it so hard at first to understand the HP’s complete story with regards to applications was due to the diversity of their solutions in that specific area (both software and services). Trying to understand how they relate to each other was another hurdle, after finding out what were the components. And truth to be told, I’m still little unsure if I got it right, but I think I have the general picture right now when it comes what HP is doing in that particular area…
When it came to the more generic programming at the event, I think that the first day’s keynote session was mostly about patting (one’s self) on the back from the different speakers, expect for the HP’s CEO Meg Whitman, who was surprisingly candid about the down spiral HP has been in with their direction and leadership. So not much to write home about when it comes to first day’s keynote really… Which cannot be said about the keynote session in the second day: as a pleasant surprise, this second keynote (or plenary session as HP called them) had actual non-slide based demonstration of the IDOL10 system (which is based on Autonomy’s technology HP acquired recently), capable of processing unstructured real-life input and information like the live image data coming from iPad’s camera used in the demo. To give an idea what that means: the system was able discern movie posters etc. from the plaques shown to it and embed/overlay a real-time animations of the subject over those objects, like Harry Potter movie poster that suddenly started animating. Autonomy’s current cloud service was also a quite biggie, 31 petabytes of information in it already!
Another positive notion in the second keynote was the SVP of HP Labs (a research arm of HP)Prith Banerjee, who gave a very passionate and excited speech about where they [HP] see the world moving into when it comes to information systems. Little bit of Big Brotherian in some aspects which do worry me to some extent, but never the less inspiring in overall sense as it showed there’s much more that can be achieved with information –based systems and intelligence.
On a second day it finally started to get more interesting to me personally as well, since I was able to have a chat with HP services (?) guys who consult and arrange workshops for customers for application transformation projects. In context of HP and enterprise systems in general, application transformation as a term of course means a lot of things, including re-development of legacy systems with more modern techniques, but the overall process of making the customer to understand the problem domain and walking them through number of different “stations” in a specially prepared application transformation workshop room – each which describe a different step in a process – seemed to be very well thought out. I honestly have not seen that sort of approach from more traditional IT consulting firms, so I really can recommend you talk to your local HP rep if you want or are already looking in to starting an app transformation project. From the different facets of app transformation, I was especially interested in the Assess and Manage phases as they, I think, are the real pain point of enterprise application management.
We also got the product demonstrations of the various HP software products in that field, which there are a plenty like I mentioned already in the beginning. To me, most relevant pieces of the client application management -puzzle seemed to be HP’s Asset Manager -product and the Application Portfolio Management –product; it’s little but pity that they (and yet some other products from HP) seemed to be overlapping in some functionality areas. This fact was actually also admitted by the HP guys themselves; maybe there is a room for unification of these system at some point in the future?
Besides the application –related problem domain, I was surprised to learn that HP has been moving, and apparently investing heavily, into cloud related business (although I guess that should not come as a surprise during this day and age when everything is “cloud”-something). They of course have had these private and hybrid cloud technologies and services already for some time for the enterprise customers, but during this conference they also demoed HP’s public cloud offering which currently is in private beta and is expected to launch sometime next year. Love the URL by the way!
This public cloud offering is going directly head-to-head against Amazon’s and Microsoft’s clouds (EC2 and Azure, respectively) and I for one welcome some competition to the field. When asked about, the pricing will be set to similar level to those two existing major players, which also should not come as a surprise to anyone. But what I really liked about their interface for the public cloud product is the simplicity. I mean, after using (very little of, but still) Amazon’s interface I can say it’s jam-packed with options and interface elements. Not so with HP Cloud, that one was very lean and elegant; I’m just hoping they don’t screw it over later on when inevitably adding more and more features.
In addition to more “normal” way of getting private computing instances from the HP Cloud (Infrastructure as a Service, IaaS), they are also going to offer some Platform as a Service (PaaS) products on their cloud. Looking also good if one can judge from the demonstrations given!
So, to conclude, I would say that I really did not have much expectations when going to the conference (knowing HP really only from their hardware business and maybe from somewhat less-than-stellar outsourcing services), but I definitely got better understanding on what other fields they play in after seeing the application transformation and lifecycle sessions and having a chat with various people over there, as well as seeing what they are looking into doing in the cloud business.