With the uncertainty that led up to the recent merger of Hewlett-Packard and Compaq fading into memory, executives from the two companies met last week in Boston to hammer out the details of the newly unified company’s strategy for high-performance computing in the life sciences market.
Overall, the “new” Hewlett-Packard expects to cut its combined staff by 15,000 people, but none of these cuts are expected to hit high-performance technical computing, according to Ty Rabe and Steve Joachims, members of the HP “clean team” charged with integrating the HPTC strategies and resources of the two firms.
Many details of the combined company’s strategy have yet to be worked out. In fact, Rabe, formerly director of HPTC solutions at Compaq, and Joachims, formerly marketing manager for HPTC at Hewlett-Packard, had yet to receive their new titles when BioInform spoke to them last week. Both men were confident, however, that negligible overlap would guarantee a relatively painless integration process.
High-performance technical computing now falls under Hewlett-Packard’s Business Critical Systems division, which will be run by Scott Stallard, formerly vice president and general manager of HP’s Business Systems and Technology organization. Winston Prather, formerly general manager of HP’s commercial systems division, will lead the HPTC group. Further details of the management structure were still sketchy. “We haven’t built an organizational structure all the way through the business unit yet,” said Rabe. “We’re working right now on clarification of strategy and integration… Structure is going to follow strategy. That’s the mantra right now.”
Rabe noted that “we have not trimmed anything away,” and that the staffing resources and budgets of both companies’ HPTC groups have been “pooled.” HP will have “a very strong focus on life sciences,” he said. While Compaq was strong in high-performance computing for discovery and research, he noted that Hewlett-Packard has “some major strengths” downstream in clinical trials and healthcare, leaving little risk for redundancy.
Added Joachims: “As a group, we view life sciences as one of the highest growth opportunities within the high-performance technical computing marketplace and are firmly committed to a strategy. Our goal is to sustain the leadership position that Compaq brought to the table in serving that marketplace.”
Declining to provide details on how many Hewlett-Packard employees would be dedicated to life sciences, Rabe surmised, “the raw material is probably the largest team of people of any company focused on high-performance technical computing.” The combined company will have more ammunition to compete against Sun and IBM, he said, with a broader set of products, partnerships, and services than either HP or Compaq had separately. “I don’t think there’s any company in the world that can match the caliber of people and the number of people that we have, and that certainly includes IBM.”
Easing Customer Concerns
The fact that they’ll be dealing with their familiar pre-merger contacts may be reassuring to some customers, but the big questions have yet to be answered: namely, how the merger will impact product lines in the future. Joachims said the HPTC team plans to talk to all of the major customers of both Compaq and HP over the next couple of weeks, but that talk can’t come soon enough for some.
Jill Mesirov, CIO at the Whitehead Institute, said she was told the company would contact her with details “in the next couple of weeks,” but had yet to receive any details of what the new entity’s plans mean for the Whitehead’s large Alpha farm. Top concerns at the Whitehead — and other genomic groups using large Alpha-based production systems at the Sanger Institute, Celera Genomics, and elsewhere — include the planned migration from the Alpha technology to Itanium and the conversion from Compaq’s Tru64 Unix to HP-UX.
“Those are the two big issues for us because we have big systems and we have to think about porting them,” said Mesirov. “What we’re concerned about is what we have invested in the software.”
Celera spokesman Rob Bennett said the company has been “in regular contact” with its old Compaq contacts since before the merger, but was unable to provide any details on the status of discussions because Celera is currently in a bidding process for additional equipment.
Rabe said that all plans to shift to the Itanium architecture remain unchanged post-merger. Next-generation Alphas will begin shipping at the end of this year and through 2004, “and we’ll continue to provide Alphaservers for customers as long as they need them while we transition onto HP’s Itanium server family.” HP will also be transitioning its PA-RISC systems to Itanium (see sidebar, p. 6), “so we’ll both be phasing out those company-specific architectures over an extended period of time and we’ll be providing those systems to customers as long as they need them,” said Rabe.
An integrated enterprise Unix that will combine the features of Tru64 and HP-UX will appear in 2004, at which time HP will begin helping its customers migrate from Tru64 to HP-UX, Rabe said. He added that system calls and other features from Tru64 would be added to HP-UX to provide customers with a “smoother migration path.”
But much work remains to be done along that path, noted Mesirov. “Obviously, we can’t wait until 2004 to address the issue,” she said. HP has promised to help its customers, but “we have to understand what form that help will take and how great the differences are going to be, how much re-engineering we’re going to have to do, and so on.”
Rabe acknowledged that the challenges are formidable, but not insurmountable. “We’re at the foothills now, looking up at a fabulous opportunity,” he said, but it will be critical for the company to “make some smart decisions up front to get everything appointed in the same direction so that we’re executing as a business unit rather than multiple sub-businesses.”
Hewlett-Packard’s Post-Merger Server Roadmap
•IA-32 servers: Compaq’s ProLiant and HP’s Netserver will transition to the HP ProLiant name, which will include server-attached storage, rack option and power infrastructure, and systems management families used with ProLiant platforms.
•Itanium servers: Hewlett-Packard intends to stay on track with plans to make Itanium its primary 64-bit microprocessor. The next-generation, “McKinley”-based Itanium processor family of servers will contain features from the ProLiant IA-64.
•RISC-based servers: HP PA-RISC will continue through development of PA-8800 and PA-8900 processors, Compaq AlphaServer will continue through development of EV7 and EV79. PA-RISC systems will be upgradable to future Itanium microprocessors.
•Fault-tolerant servers: Compaq’s NonStop server family had no equivalent at HP. Transition to Itanium will proceed under HP as planned by Compaq.
•Unix: HP-UX and Compaq Tru64 Unix will transition to HP-UX. Clustering, file systems, and other advanced features from Tru64 will be integrated into HP-UX over time.