Discover 2014: With improved financial results, the CEO says the company has turned the corner

Two and a half years ago Hewlett-Packard Co. was in disarray, in red ink, facing a loss of investor and customer confidence amid the departure of its CEO over a controversial US$10 billion acquisition.

At its annual Discover infrastructure conference here on Tuesday, where HP’s 75th birthday was honored, executives declared the worst is behind after huge cost-cutting and layoffs.

“I can tell you with pride that HP has turned the corner,” CEO Meg Whitman said in the keynote. “We are on a clear path and we have done the hard things to keep us in the lead. The company is back on solid footing,” she said to solid warm applause. “We’ve re-established relationships with our most important constituents, our employees, our investors and most importantly you our partners and customers.  We’ve re-ignited the innovation engine … We have a clear and compelling strategy that will take HP into the future.”
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Interestingly, though, rather than wow the audience of some 10,000 customers and partners with big announcements, products were revealed first to reporters and select customers yesterday or before the keynote – the Apollo supercomputer; cost-effective ways to manage and encrypt data;  and an all-flash array with larger drives that uses compression and de-duplication to achieve a cost performance equal to arrays with spinning disks.

A big announcement for Wednesday was hinted at, with Whitman saying some in the company call it “the project of our careers.”

But industry analyst Neil Macdonald of Gartner found the audience mood receptive to the claims by Whitman and other executives on stage that “HP is back.”

The customers and partners were more upbeat than they were two years ago, he noted in an interview.

Company founders Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard (the order of the name was picked by a coin toss – but for luck, it could have been “PH”) were saluted by Whitman, who rhymed off a number of company triumphs including creating the first desktop calculator in 1968, creating the first wearable technology in 1977 (she wore one on her wrist), the first desktop laser printer in 1980, and having an HP Ethernet switch fired into space for the International Space Station.

But, she added “we simply cannot dwell on the past, we have to be proactive … We haven’t always travelled on the easiest path,” she admitted, “or the most comfortable course, but have taken steps to protect our competitive advantage and better serve all of you.”

Executives took the stage to go through HP’s prodigious enterprise catalogue, and how, as one put it, HP is helping IT departments be “superheroes” in an era of cloud computing, big data and rapid change.

So officials talked about everything from HP’s commitment and recent announcements on software defined network, converged infrastructure, business intelligence and security.

Also announced was

–version 1.1 of HP OneView data centre management suite, which now has improved support for VMware vCenter as well as support for OpenStack, Microsoft Systems Center, HP Helion, Red Hat Management and 3Par StoreServ.

It can now also manage HP’s ConvergedSystems stack of compute, storage and networking nodes;

–enhancements to the ConvergedSystem for Virtualization  lets customers now deploy HP CloudSystem 8 software to extend the system’s functionality from virtualization to hybrid clouds;

–an on-premise option for its Data Center Flexible Capacity service for organizations that would rather leave data centre management to HP (NYSE: HPQ).  The original offering let organizations shift workloads to HP’s Helion public infrastructure as a service cloud. For those who want to keep sensitive data on-prem now they can hire HP to run those workloads on a pay per use model.

“No other technology company has the breadth and depth of cloud, big data and security solutions,” Whitman said.

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