HP Cloud Chief Exits, Leaves Troubled Skies

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Hewlett-Packard Cloud Services chief Zorawar Biri Singh departed last week after two years building the vendor’s cloud strategy. This could signal trouble in one of the core pillars of HP’s restoration strategy.

Hewlett-Packard Co.’s efforts to rest much of its restoration on cloud computing hit a major snag last week when Zorawar Biri Singh, senior vice president of Converged Cloud and general for Cloud Services, left after two years on the job.

Executive departures, especially after short tenures, are significant as being bad personnel fits, missed goals or poor alignment. Singh’s exit from HP is probably a combination of factors, although he and the company are mute on specifics.

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“HP remains committed to our Converged Cloud portfolio," HP said in a statement to GigaOM. "In particular, HP Cloud Services is critical to HP’s efforts to deliver superior public cloud infrastructure, services and solutions to our customers. Roger Levy, vice president, Technology and Customer Operations of HP Cloud Services, will serve as the interim leader for HP Cloud Services. The company thanks Zorawar ‘Biri’ Singh for his passion and commitment to drive our public cloud vision and wish him well.”

What makes Singh’s departure particularly problematic is the importance HP is placing on cloud computing for its restoration. CEO Meg Whitman gave cloud equal weight with security and Big Data as part of its efforts to stabilize and revive the trouble company.

Since Whitman outlined the three-pillar strategy, HP has hit several bumps, the largest being the financial meltdown of its Autonomy software. Last fall, HP wrote off $8.8 billion, much of which is related to the $11.7 billion it paid for the Big Data specialist. At the same time, HP watched sales and revenue in nearly every major business unit shrink.

HP believes it can leverage its considerable hardware, software and professional services assets to jumpstart a cloud computing program. Point of fact: HP is a major contributor to the foundational technology that makes up cloud computing infrastructure among many service providers.

HP’s leveraging of cloud computing in the channel is unclear. While HP talks up cloud computing capabilities and ambitions to channel partners, how the cloud gets translated to the channel remains, well, cloudy. HP does much of its cloud business direct; many HP partners are developing cloud capacities, using HP products as infrastructure.

Some analysts speculate HP believes it can leverage HP Services, much of which is bolstered the former EDS professional services team, to break into enterprise cloud engagements. In its most recent Securities and Exchange Commission filing, HP notes a willingness to sell off underperforming and non-strategic assets as part of its restructuring. Reports surfaced several companies approached HP about buying troubled units, including EDS and Autonomy. HP reportedly balked at those offers, saying certain assets were strategic for its long-term plans.

However, HP lacks many management and automation applications to make true end-to-end cloud computing systems. Compared to competitors, including Del Inc., IBM and CA Technologies, HP’s cloud portfolio remains relatively nascent.

All things considered, Singh’s departure signals trouble in HP’s cloud strategy. Chances are HP will announce a new cloud direction with promises of accelerated innovation. If that happens, it’s a sign the current strategy isn’t delivering.

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