HP's Whitman Keynotes Nth Symposium, Says HP Returning To Customer- And Partner-Centric DNA

Hewlett-Packard President and CEO Meg Whitman on Tuesday told a packed crowd of IT executives that HP has returned to its roots as a customer- and partner-centric provider of IT products and services, and that customers should trust their solution providers to support their HP infrastructures.

Whitman, speaking at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, Calif., to a crowd consisting mainly of clients of Nth Generation, a San Diego-based solution provider and sponsor of this week's Nth Symposium 2013 conference, said that in the nearly two years since she took the reins at HP, customers and partners have told her how much they want the company to succeed.

"Customers have always been at the heart of HP. ... We're one of the only companies, maybe the only company, equally strong in devices, infrastructure and services," she said.

[Related: HP Brings Back Former Channel Exec To Manage Moonshot Server Business ]

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Despite all the turmoil HP faced before she joined the company, Whitman said HP's focus on customers and partners was always a part of the corporate DNA since the company was founded, and that it is hard to kill the DNA of its founders.

"Despite the acquisitions, the boardroom drama, it's hard to kill the culture," she said.

HP currently is in an incredible financial position, and has near-zero debt, Whitman said. "Believe me, HP is here to stay," she said.

Rich Baldwin, CIO and chief strategy officer at Nth Generation, said there is no question that HP is on the right track in terms of the kind of issues and "megatrends" Whitman addressed during her keynote.

HP is addressing big data with Autonomy and Vertica, and it's addressing data center infrastructures with its HP Project Moonshot servers, among other things, Baldwin said.

"I don't think there's any other company with the kind of capabilities HP is bringing to the market," he said.

HP and its customers are on the verge of the next inflection point in IT, a massive change that happens every 10 to 15 years, Whitman said.

"That shift is being driven by the cloud, mobility, big data and security. ... In my view, this shift demands a new kind of IT," she said.

NEXT: New IT, New Challenges

That new kind of IT presents big challenges, especially as businesses and governments are being forced to accelerate their IT transformations, HP's Whitman said.

"Companies can no longer take nine months to develop version 1 of an app," she said. "Then take nine months to develop version 2. These things now have to take place in a matter of weeks."

IT is also no longer just a matter of keeping the computers running, Whitman said, using a nautical analogy to describe how the business is changing.

"Everyone in this room is no longer down in the engine room [of the ship]," she said. "You are all up in the bridge consulting with the captain. And, HP is here to help you earn your stripes."

Whitman said that data center infrastructures threaten to get out of control, with an estimated 8 million to 10 million new servers, taking up the equivalent of 200 football fields' worth of space required to meet new workloads in the next three years.

That growth stems from several megatrends, including the move to cloud computing and a need for across-the-board security, she said. For instance, by 2016, about 75 percent of IT environments will be in private, managed or public clouds.

HP's strategy is to provide solutions to meet the requirements for a new style of IT, Whitman said. This includes the development of its Project Moonshot servers, which she said can cut power requirements by up to 89 percent, footprint by up to 80 percent, and cost by up to 77 percent when compared to legacy server architectures.

For instance, hp.com, which currently gets about 300 million hits per day, is currently being run on Moonshot servers that in total consume less power than 12 60-watt light bulbs.

HP is also continuing to innovate in big data, cloud computing, storage and security, and it is also looking at partnership opportunities such as HP's decision to resell Google Apps, which she said will result in an "SMB IT in a Box" solution featuring PCs, printers, the Google Apps software and perhaps even one of the new HP Gen 8 Microservers.

These initiatives and others are part of HP's way to help provide continued growth for customers and partners, Whitman said.

"We understand that you may go to work feeling like Clark Kent, but when you get there, you're expected to act like Superman," she said. "HP is helping you put on that red cape."

NEXT: Straight Talk From Whitman In Response To Audience Questions

HP's Whitman also encouraged audience members to ask questions. "You don't have to be shy," she said. "Remember, I ran for public office. You can't hurt my feelings."

One customer asked Whitman why he can call Microsoft with a problem and have a single rep respond, while it might require calling six HP reps, some of whom may have left the company, to respond.

She acknowledged this has been an HP issue, and that HP is working to ensure customers know who to contact for help. However, she said, it is a big task, one that may take two to three years.

"I can also say, if you are working with a partner, that partners should have someone who can help you," she said.

Whitman also publicly announced her email address, and encouraged anyone with an issue they cannot solve to contact her directly.

In response to another customer's question about how HP might raise its service and support quality, Whitman said service and support are a part of HP's DNA but had not been measured in the last few years. "I'm a big believer in if you can't measure it, you can't fix it," she said.

That is changing, especially with the help of solution providers, Whitman said. "I know we've made a lot of progress," she said. "I can see it in my metrics."

Another customer asked about the difficulties of working across international borders where he faces as many as eight different SKU numbers for the same product, which complicates procurement.

Whitman drew audience applause when she said that this is a priority for HP, and that it should be 80 percent solved by year-end. She cited the classic 80-20 rule and said that 80 percent of HP's revenue comes from 14 countries.

"I'm all over those 14 countries. ... [Maybe] I'll be here next year and you'll say, Meg, why didn't you fix it in Jordan," she said.