Tasting a dollop of HP's software sauce

Obviously, the HP Software concept is new for the company, which has to bash all the various bits and pieces into one uniform shape that makes sense to the world

One of the worst things that can happen to a journalist is to arrive at a conference to find the convener seems as lost about the purpose of the event as you are. That happened to me in drought-stricken but humid and soaked Brisbane, at the Hewlett-Packard Software Universe conference.

HP is best known for its hardware. Now, however, it has decided to make a major push for the software market, too, which is why it bought Mercury Interactive last year, for US$4.5 billion (NZ$6.6 billion).

HP has actually been in the software field for a long time with OpenView and other products but is trying to unify these under one brand.

The idea in Brisbane was to show off what HP Software is all about, with lots of sessions and around 700 people attending the conference. Media people were flown in from all over the region.

Once in Brisbane, the assembled media were bombarded with phrases such as “optimising the outcome” and “delivering on business objectives”, delivered by bright-eyed HP executives.

But I found myself asking what exactly does it all mean? Details and specifics were a lot less forthcoming than the buzzwords, and the media were only wheeled in for the first two days and shielded from the actual conference attendees.

Some select customers presented case studies that sounded interesting enough but were impossible to verify on the spot. The West Australian police IT system was one such case study. Thanks to the new system, the Perth plods now don’t go smashing down the wrong doors at dawn. The same state has also put in place a broadband network for remote schools that provides a 10Mbit/s service, which is no mean feat given the rigours of place. It’s all remotely managed too, with HP Software bits and pieces.

The Kiwi presence seemed rather thin on the ground, but I caught up with the boys from HP partner Assurity, which provides software quality testing services. That sounds rather unglamorous, until you hear that the vast majority of development projects either fail or remain incomplete. Having sound processes in place to catch snafus early makes sense, and it seems Assurity is doing well on the back of this. It was awarded the Mercury Prize for securing the highest revenues in its field in New Zealand last year.

But how much revenue? What is the size of the market and who are the customers? Unfortunately, this was something Assurity didn’t want to reveal to the press.

I had better hopes for my next interview subject, Petah Green, sales manager for HP’s product OpenCall in Australia.

Green is articulate, intelligent, far better dressed than her male counterparts and a killer salesperson. It was lucky I wasn’t a target for her sales spiel, as otherwise I’d be the proud owner of several Brisbane bridges by now.

However, while it appears OpenCall is used by just about all telco providers, including Alcatel-Lucent, Green could provide little detail on who was doing what with it.

Obviously, the HP Software concept is new for the company, which has to bash all the various bits and pieces (er, OpenView, for example) into one uniform shape that makes sense to the world. The Brisbane conference was arguably held a year too early, as it lacked that convergence.

• Juha Saarinen travelled to Brisbane as a guest of HP

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