Inside Extreme Scale Tech|Wednesday, October 22, 2014
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HP Systems Get A Bump Thanks To IBM-Lenovo Deal 

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The expected drawn-out regulatory approval process for IBM’s sale of its System x X86 server business to Lenovo Group has put some bounce into the X86 server line from Hewlett-Packard. In the third quarter of fiscal 2014 ended in July, HP said that it believes it has gained market share against its peers in systems. The company is also seeing market share gains against Cisco in networking and is getting good growth on so-called converged storage platforms even as traditional storage arrays continue to show weakness.

In the quarter, revenues across all product lines at HP rose by 1.3 percent to $27.6 billion. HP’s research and development costs rose by 11.3 percent to $887 million and it also booked $649 million in restructuring charges, which was a bit higher than expected. These and other downward pressures took their toll on net income, which fell by 29.1 percent to $985 million. The overall restructuring charges for fiscal 2014 will be in line with expectations. HP announced a broad restructuring back in May 2012, with up to 27,000 employees being let go, and earlier this year the company expanded that layoff to a total of 34,000 employees.

HP’s Enterprise Group, which sells servers, storage, switches, and services for all of this gear, had a 1.9 percent revenue increase in the quarter, to $6.89 billion, but earnings before taxes fell 5.6 percent to $966 million. HP does not provide pre-tax earnings for the various divisions within Enterprise Group, but it does break out revenues.

The Industry Standard Servers division, which peddles X86 iron and which is roughly analogous to IBM’s System x division, had $3.1 billion in revenues, up 8.6 percent and growing many times faster than the market at large. HP’s ProLiant and other X86 server sales rose across all geographic regions and average selling prices rose in the double digits as customers added more features and peripherals to the systems they acquired. HP is facing a tough compare for its fiscal Q4, however, after winning a huge deal last fall from Microsoft for its Bing search engine.

“We are seeing good early traction with service providers as a result of our partnership with Foxconn to produce a line of cloud-optimized servers,” explained HP CEO Meg Whitman on a call with Wall Street analysts going over the numbers, referring to a deal that HP inked with the giant Chinese manufacturer back in April to make a whole new line of as-yet unannounced cloudy systems. “And we moved aggressively to take advantage of the uncertainty customers feel about the IBM-Lenovo transaction. In head-to-head fights with IBM for deals, we are seeing clear improvement in win rates –all this while delivering stable growth margins.”

That seems to indicate that the margin pressure is not coming from X86 servers, but in other divisions within the Enterprise Group. The Business Critical Systems division, which includes machines running HP-UX Unix, OpenVMS, and NonStop platforms as well as the new high-end Xeon E7 systems such as the “Project Kraken” ProLiant Superdome ConvergedSystem 900 that debuted in June for SAP HANA in-memory workloads, had an 18 percent decline to $233 million, but was actually up one point sequentially and, importantly, HP saw order growth in the quarter for BCS products. This was no doubt an effect of the new Kraken systems, and the news that HP has licensed OpenVMS to VMS Software for future development and support will very likely help stabilize BCS sales going forward.

HP’s Networking division had $672 million in sales, up 4.4 percent, and Whitman said that the company had good growth in switching in particular but did not call out any specific figures except to say that the networking unit had outperformed Cisco once again.

On the storage front, sales of $796 million, down 4.4 percent, were lower than expected. Traditional storage arrays saw a 14 percent decline to $432 million, but converged storage, HP”s catch-word phrase for modern arrays, had 9 percent growth to $364 million and the 3PAR line returned to double-digit growth. If you add up 3PAR plus HP’s high-end XP and EVA arrays, revenues for these three as a group were down 7 percent year-on-year, but Lesjak said that HP nonetheless expected to gain market share in the external disk array market in the second calendar quarter. Whitman said that HP continues to grow its share in midrange storage, which frankly was always the strength of Compaq anyway. “As the market shifts increasingly from high-end to midrange storage, it is pressuring overall market growth,” explained Whitman. “But I believe this plays into a sweet spot for HP, which bodes well for us in the long term.”

Technology Services, the support arm of the Enterprise Group, had a 2.6 percent decline in the third fiscal quarter, to just a smidgen under $2.1 billion . Lower volumes of systems sales in prior quarters were the main cause of the decline, and Whitman said that margins were holding steady despite the decline.

On the cloud front, Whitman said that CloudSystem hardware showed double-digit growth in the third quarter, and that the commercial version of HP’s Helion OpenStack implementation would be ready for commercial use by October. HP has cooked up a Helion development platform for coders and is also getting ready to launch a set of OpenStack support and implementation services to go along with the Helion delivery. Whitman also said that HP would end up being the leading code contributor to the future “Juno” release of OpenStack, which is slated for release on October 16.

HP Software had its challenges during the quarter, with sales off 5 percent to $959 million. But pretax margins help up at $203 million in the quarter. The Autonomy tools for dealing with unstructured data and the Vertica parallel database both had revenue declines in the quarter, but security software revenues were up a bit. HP inked a big partnership with Hortonworks to integrate its Hadoop distribution into the Haven data analytics platform, and HP hopes this will bear fruit for the software group in the coming quarters. In general, Whitman said that HP software was shifting to a SaaS and subscription model for much of its software and away from licensing, which would have a near-time downward impact on revenues but would level things out over the long term. Bookings for IT management tools, including OpenView and other tools, delivered on a SaaS model rose by double-digits in the quarter, as an example. But across all of HP Software, license revenues were off 16 percent while SaaS revenues rose by 8 percent.

In other areas, HP Financial Services, which finances HP’s various wares for partners and customers, had revenues of $855 million, down 3 percent, and delivered $79 million in operating profits. HP Enterprise Services, which is mostly the old EDS systems integration and outsourcing business, had a 6.4 percent decline to $5.59 billion, and the printing business booked the same $5.59 billion in sales after a 3.8 percent decline. Thanks to the expiration of Windows XP support, the PC business had a nice uptick, rising 11.9 percent to $8.65 billion. That is probably not sustainable growth over the long term, but the PC business is actually helping HP’s bottom line right now, as hard as that might be to believe.

About the author: Timothy Prickett Morgan

Editor in Chief, EnterpriseTech Prickett Morgan brings 25 years of experience as a publisher, IT industry analyst, editor, and journalist for some of the world’s most widely-read high-tech and business publications including The Register, BusinessWeek, Midrange Computing, IT Jungle, Unigram, The Four Hundred, ComputerWire, Computer Business Review, Computer System News and IBM Systems User.

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