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March 18, 2011

HP will build, buy and partner to enter middleware market

HP chief Leo Apotheker says "we will be in this business"

By Jason Stamper

Leo Apotheker

HP’s chief executive Leo Apotheker will build, buy and partner in order to enter the integration middleware market, CBR has learned.

In the week that HP announced its new strategy around cloud computing, its WebOS prosumer operating system and connectedness, CBR had the opportunity to ask a few questions of Apotheker.

As well as asking how important innovation is to the firm – its tag line has long been ‘HP Invent’ – we were also keen to better understand just how HP will handle the new challenges of integration and convergence that it has promised to help solve in the era of cloud.

HP has historically had minimal middleware capability: the plumbing of the IT world has been handled instead by specialists like Tibco, Informatica, iWay or by the likes of Oracle (thanks in part to its BEA buy), SAP’s NetWeaver or Software AG.

Go back to 2000 and HP attempted to muscle its way into the middleware space with the $470m acquisition of application server vendor Bluestone. That buy was an abject failure and the technology was eventually abandoned, leaving HP forced to partner with former arch rival BEA.

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So if integration and convergence are important – between on-premise and cloud, from cloud to cloud, even from analogue to digital in the printing realm – how will HP again tackle the need for integration middleware? Will it simply leave the space to partners, in which case its promises as a provider of cloud solutions to enterprises and consumers ring a little hollow?

"We will deploy three strategies here," Apotheker told CBR, "and by the way you are absolutely right [about HP’s poor history in middleware]. Nevertheless it is hugely important so we will be in this business, in three ways. We will develop some of our own. If you look at some of the projects and services that we deliver to customers we already build it anyway for many customers but it’s on a one-off basis, so we can actually aggregate some of that and make it into viable software."

"B, we will partner and C we will do some M&A," Apotheker said. "But we will be in this business."

It is perhaps no coincidence that Apotheker was a strong advocate of SAP’s NetWeaver integration platform while he was SAP CEO.

Listen to a longer audio podcast of the interview here.

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