Hewlett-Packard outlines Internet strategy

Hewlett-Packard’s vision of providing the platform for brokering business-to-business transactions on the Internet became much clearer at HP World in San Francisco last month. Newly appointed HP CEO Carly Fiorina promised a more focused company, and Oracle helped to add some meat to HP’s electronic-services message.

In her opening remarks at the user conference, Fiorina said HP owes its customers and partners a clear vision and direction for the future, noting that attendees would “see over the next several days why HP is uniquely qualified to lead the e-services revolution.”

If initial reaction from conference attendees is any sign, HP may be on the right track.

“It was enlightening to see HP putting forth a more powerful vision,” said Arvin Van Zante, a business systems manager at Pella, a window manufacturer based in Pella, Iowa. “They’ve been behind the times and are now trying to leapfrog the competition.”

The e-services vision is a good one, Van Zante said, but what it is really doing is levelling the playing field for what HP is calling “Chapter 2” of the Internet. In addition, the vision may not speak to all of HP’s customers just yet.

“There’s potential for everybody, but what I’ve seen so far is really geared more toward service industries like banking and financial, not manufacturing,” Van Zante said.

But HP might be able to change that soon as the company looks to gain momentum through a variety of partnerships aimed at proliferating the e-services model.

The biggest news of HP World was a deal made with Oracle that Ann Livermore, president and CEO of HP’s enterprise business unit, referred to as “one of the most critical alliances” for HP’s e-services vision.

The partnership calls for joint technology development and distribution of e-services technologies centred on HP’s e-Speak technology, a common API designed to make it easier for electronic-commerce transactions to be conducted over the Web, and the Oracle8i database.

The companies will form “expert centres” to help customers develop e-services, and e-services technologies will be made available through the developer networks of both companies.

In addition to the e-services partnership, Oracle is one of the companies with which HP is working from an infrastructure standpoint to ensure the system availability that is critical to HP’s e-services vision.

According to Patrick Rogers, marketing manager at HP’s business-critical computing business unit, the company will soon make several announcements involving partnerships targeted at ensuring the availability of applications running on HP’s hardware.

The announcements, Rogers said, will focus on support and certification for applications from companies such as Oracle.

HP will also practise what it is preaching in the not-so-distant future by developing e-services of its own, possibly starting with a storage e-service the company could offer to customers as a utility.

Another company that may soon take advantage of HP’s e-services technologies, lending further credibility to the concept, is enterprise resource planning (ERP) vendor SAP. Rajiv Gupta, manager of the open-services operation at HP, said he can imagine a scenario in which SAP would use the e-services platform to modularize its solutions and expand its market by offering applications over the Internet.

“SAP could become the ERP backbone of the world,” Gupta said.