Hewlett Packard channel partners who've been wondering about Leo Apotheker's leadership style had to be impressed when the HP CEO, in his first direct address to VARs, slammed Oracle for its decision last week to stop developing software for Intel's Itanium platform.
"From my perspective, it's a rather clumsy attempt by Oracle to try and prop up a failing and deteriorating Sun server business," Apotheker said at the outset of his Monday keynote speech at HP's Americas Partner Conference 2011 in Las Vegas. "It is an anticompetitive decision, it is self interested and it is to the endangerment of customers."
HP's Integrity Unix servers, NonStop servers, and OpenVMS servers are all based on Itanium. And because Oracle applications are the most common software run on HP's HP-UX Unix platform, Oracle dropping Itanium could put a significant dent in HP's business.
However, Apotheker quelled any uneasiness partners may have had when he revealed that HP has committed to at least ten years of future development and innovation on its HP-UX Unix platform and Itanium based servers.
"I want you to know that HP will do what we always do which is to put the best interest of the customer first," he said, triggering an extended round of applause from the roughly 2,000 partners in attendance.
Dean Cappellazzo, CEO of Bedrock Technology Partners, an HP partner based in San Mateo, Calif., said Apotheker's comments clear up a lot of the fear, uncertainty and doubt that was cast over HP's Itanium product line in the wake of the Oracle's decision.
"I loved it," said Cappellazzo of Apotheker's no holds barred commitment to continue Itanium development with Intel for 10 years. "Hearing Leo say the Itanium road map is set for 10 years puts partners at ease. That is going to help us convince end users that the technology road map for Itanium is stable and secure for years to come."
Harry Zarek, president and CEO of Compugen, a Richmond Hill, Ontario HP partner, praised Apotheker for standing up to the Oracle throwdown against Itanium. "I am very heartened by Leo's words," he said. "I would like Intel to make an even stronger statement about their support. We need a joint HP and Intel message on commitment to Itanium. HP should not be doing this on their own. Leo needs to get (Intel CEO) Paul Otellini out in front of this."
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Zarek also put down Oracle for effectively threatening customers who have committed to running Oracle's database on HP Itanium systems. "If you harm your customer and you take away their choice and think that is the only way they are going to do business, you are going to have a rude awakening one day."
Cappellazzo praised HP's Itanium product line for its power, performance and price advantage over Oracle's competing Sun hardware offering.
"HP's Itanium DL980 product is a great buy at $115,000 fully loaded versus a Sun M9000 at $2.3 million list price. You get 82 percent of the workload on an HP DL980 versus a Sun M9000. For redundancy purposes you could purchase four DL980s at 20 percent of the price of a Sun M9000."
Apotheker also offered an update on the IT supply chain situation in Japan, where authorities continue efforts to bring a stricken nuclear plant under control after a massive March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Apotheker didn't offer much insight, noting that electricity and transportation infrastructure is still being restored in northern Japan, but said HP has a crisis management team working to prevent radiation contaminated products from getting into HP's supply chain.
When HP tapped Apotheker to succeed Mark Hurd as HP CEO, partners weren't sure that his direct sales background as head of SAP would be a fit. But in the wake of Apotheker's first speech to partners, he's clearly willing to tackle head-on the issues that partners have as HP dives headlong into cloud computing and mobility.
Apotheker has also managed to silence the critics who felt he wasn't the right fit for the channel friendly culture fostered by Hurd, and in his keynote speech he made it clear that nothing could be further from the truth. "I am 100 percent committed to our channel partners everywhere," Apotheker said in the keynote.