Will HP's Turnaround Include Security Overhaul?

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PC manufacturer Hewlett Packard Co. is on a path to increase its security presence. But it still lacks a comprehensive security strategy that would integrate its offerings into end-to-end solutions and give partners greater traction and credibility in enterprise markets.

Last summer, Hewlett Packard Co. was at a crossroads as it faced plummeting revenues and rapidly declining sales reveneus in its flagship PC and printer divisions.

The downward spiral prompted CEO Meg Whitman to bring attention to a massive turnaround effort that would not only right HP’s ship, but set it on a new course altogether. Bulking up its security presence was presumed to be included in that mix. But six months later at the dawn of 2013, it's still questionable what its security strategy will look like or whether it will even be part of that effort.

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To be fair, HPs reinvention is no small undertaking and will almost certainly take years to complete. During a call to investors, Whitman underscored that massive change would not come easily or quickly.

“We will turn enterprise services around, but it will take some time,” she said, noting the progress “would not be linear.” That said, Whitman didn’t attempt to hide the fact that the company had “a long way to go” before it would see the fruits of its labor -- possibly as many as five years before discernable changes were made.

During that same call, Whitman called for a significant product shift, pledging a greater focus on trending technologies such as cloud, mobility and virtualization.

That was about six months ago. And since then, HP has incrementally fulfilled its ambitions with related cloud and virtualization launches.

What seems to be missing is a comprehensive strategy to build out its security components and a pragmatic, consistent effort to transform its numerous security acquisitions into a harmonious working stack greater than the sum of its parts.

That’s not to say that HP has been asleep at the wheel when it comes to security. Last fall, the PC and printer vendor breathed new life into its security portfolio with the launch of a Security Operations Center, complemented by refreshes of ArcSight and TippingPoint products, a new data protection service and an on-demand Comprehensive Application Threat Analysis service. In that same overhaul, the vendor also introduced printing security solutions targeting the healthcare industry by making building a strong story around regulatory compliance.

It was a strong start. And soon after HP bolstered the launch by inking a distribution deal with Westcon Group for its Security Intelligence and Risk Management (SIRM) portfolio, which gave partners access to HP security tools and allowed them to specialized in security with the company.

The launch came as a rejuvenated push around security aimed at resuscitating some of its product lines while attempting to gain relevancy in new security markets as well as burgeoning intelligence and analytics niches. What’s more, the effort appeared to be a critical component of a comprehensive product turnaround effort initiated a year prior when Whitman took the company’s helm, and reaffirmed with its dismal third quarter earnings.

Since then, HP has been relatively quiet on the security front. However, in January, the company released a new service umbrella, dubbed HP Breach Management Solutions, aimed at addressing response, remediation and mitigation niches in the aftermath of a malware attack or data breach. Among other things, the new service suggested that the company is still attempting to gain credibility in security markets but differentiate by taking a remediation -- as opposed to detection -- approach.

Even still, HP is still getting its story straight around this space, and there are holes in its message. The company has a lot of the right pieces in place, which undeniably include offerings from Fortify, TippingPoint and ArcSight. However, many of its security acquisitions – the most recent of which was conducted in 2010 -- operate as standalone entities, and have yet to be amalgamated into more comprehensive solutions or integrated into a more synergistic end-to-end portfolio.

Also, some of HP competitors seem to have a much stronger and consistent message around security. In light of its flagging hardware business, Dell Inc. has taken the security market by storm with serial launches that include everything from recent launches of SecureWorks vulnerability and Web application threat services to expansion of its SonicWall certifications aimed at building out its growing security channel.

Meanwhile, as previously mentioned by Channelnomics, HP is already facing setbacks when it comes to marketshare – and mindshare – in which it comes up short to many major competitors. Gartner hails Symantec Corp., McAfee Inc. and Trend Micro Inc. as dominating the software security industry, followed by IBM and EMC Corp. When combined, the top five market leaders comprise 43.6 percent of the market. That leaves HP amid the masses eking out territory in the remaining 56.4 percent.

HP is on the right track. And bucking other downward trends, security has emerged as a relatively profitable sector for the company. The company’s software division experienced a 9 percent growth during its fourth quarter earnings, driven by new licensing sales and a 48 percent jump in services.

It has all the right parts in place. But an unfocused message doesn’t do much to instill confidence in solution providers questioning whether or not to build security practices around HPs releases. At the same time, competitors have long since identified security as a critical profit center going forward and have since tailored offerings to meet rising demand.

Now perhaps HP has to take a page from Dell’s book by first taking its ambitions to the drawing board and cultivating a cohesive narrative around its burgeoning, but often erratic, security story.

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