Who should shepherd the HP herd?
Now that  Mark Hurd has left his position as chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard Development Co., there's no end to the speculation as to who will fill his place.




Published reports include questions as to whether HP's board of directors will offer the job to someone like Google Inc.'s Eric Schmidt, Acadia Enterprises LLC's Michael Capellas, EMC CEO Joe Tucci or another CEO. Capellas headed Compaq Computer Corp. which HP acquired in 2002.


If I was an HP shareholder (and I am not), I would probably want a networking person brought in.


Although it would be nice to have a grand strategy kind of guy (or gal) to take over HP as CEO, what the company really needs is someone who can effectively take on Cisco Systems Inc.


While HP was founded during the Second World War, Cisco wasn’t formed until 1984. For most of HP’s history, Cisco didn’t exist. For most of Cisco’s history, it wasn’t much of a threat to HP.


But that changed in early 2009, when Cisco announced Unified Computing System, a blade server designed specifically for companies using virtualization technology in data centres. Then earlier this year, Cisco dropped HP as a certified reseller.



For its part, HP was making switches using the Procurve brand name, but was never a major player. Obviously, HP hopes to change that, since it acquired 3Com Corp. last year for US$2.7 billion.


HP has most of the major pieces you need to sell a complete enterprise solution, including storage, servers, switches and routers. With its Halo video conferencing line, it offers an alternative to Cisco’s Telepresence products, which Cisco has expanded by acquiring Tandberg SA. 


So what HP could really use is a CEO who understands interoperability, especially in the data centre, and can persuade enterprises to buy a combination of HP servers, switches and storage, rather than go to IBM Global Services to buy IBM servers and storage, with Cisco equipment. After all, it has been said that IBM sells more Cisco equipment in Canada then Cisco.


I am not going to speculate on who will be the next HP CEO, but offer some people for consideration. A few disclaimers: I have no idea who the board is considering. I did not ask any of these people if they want the job at HP. And none of them have offered me any incentive to endorse them. Honest.


This list does not include Cisco CEO John Chambers, any of Cisco’s five presidents or 50 senior vice-presidents, nor does it include any of Cisco’s six executive vice-presidents. And no, I’m not exaggerating.

So who might HP want to include in its short list?

Jayshree Ullal, CEO, Arista Networks Inc.


An electrical engineer by trade, Ullal was a senior vice-president for data centre switching products at Cisco after it bought her previous employer, Cresendo Communications, in 1993. Ullal is now CEO of Arista, which makes high-end data centre switches. I’m not sure how much she knows about storage and servers, but what’s important is she understands the challenges in getting all the moving parts in a data centre working together.




Nick Tidd, president for North America,D-Link Corp.


Tidd is a former senior executive with 3Com took over the vendor’s Canadian operation in 2000, when he was 35. He may not know as much about high-end data centre switching as Arista’s Ullal, but he knows the 3Com products that HP bought for US$2.7 billion. Born into a family of IT specialists, Tidd started his career as a teenager by installing networks at an Ontario Ministry of Health site in Toronto.



Charlie Giancarlo, managing director of Silver Lake and chairman, Avaya Inc.


His current employer is a private equity firm, but Giancarlo has a masters in electrical engineering and for 14 years worked at Cisco, where he was chief development officer. Giancarlo was appointed CEO of Avaya two years ago and is now the chairman.Like Ullal, his Cisco career started in 1993 due to a corporate merger. In Giancarlo’s case, he was working for Ethernet switch maker Kalpana Inc., which Cisco acquired.




So whether you have a networking person or not, the next HP CEO should be able to sell enterprise buyers on the concept of buying into HP’s notion of storage, servers and networking.

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