HP’s CEO: external clouds not secure enough

Hewlett-Packard’s CEO, Mark Hurd, is raising issues with cloud computing, on everything from its name to its ability to offer a secure environment.

There’s a lot that Hurd likes about the cloud environment, but he told attendees at Gartner Inc.’s recent Symposium/ITxpo that more work is needed before cloud services, specifically those located outside the firewall, can offer enough security.

“There is whole set of things from a security perspective that, frankly, have to be overcome to make sure we can keep the momentum going,” Hurd said of cloud computing’s potential.

Citing the 1,000 hack attacks fended off daily, Hurd said “it’s unlikely we would put anything outside the firewall that was material in nature, that we couldn’t just 100 per cent secure.”

He acknowledged that there are many external cloud services that do work, particularly consumer services, but said most of the risk is on the credit card companies.

Another problem with cloud is that it is too technical a term, and there’s a need “try to break this down into simple, clear services,” he said.

Hurd was questioned by Gartner analysts David Cearley and Donna Scott. Usually, for tsuch interviews, the person being interviewed sits as well, but Hurd spent a lot of his time on his feet, drawing diagrams on the board to show how the company was developing, and poising itself for a move to vertical markets.

In his nearly five years as CEO, Hurd has put a lot of effort into reducing costs, cutting management layers, and cutting the number of applications used in the business, from 7,000, some gained through a number of acquisitions, including EDS, to 2,000. The goal now is to reduce the number of applications to 1,000.

The cuts and changes in HP’s staff may have created other issues for the company, something Scott alluded at in one question about the sales effort. “We hear about fragmentation and that HP is difficult to do business with,” she said, and asked what customers should expect from HP’s account teams.

Hurd acknowledged that “sales, as a discipline, has not been what’s been at the heart for the company,” and said he agreed “to some degree” with Scott’s point, but said that the company was making progress in that area. “There are a lot of things we can do to simplify the customer experience,” he said.

A major goal will be creating new verticals to provide complete industry product lines, Hurd said.

The plan to move into verticals raised the eyebrows of Sina Adibi, of the consulting firm Practical CTO LLC, who was at the conference. He said HP’s plan to become a vertical provider could be an issue for some IT managers. “CIOs are not paid to hitch their wagon to a single vendor,” Adibi said.

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