Hewlett-Packard, the last of the large monolithic IT enterprise companies for everything from supercomputers to Unix and tablets, was put to rest this week.
The official split, the separation of HP's PC and printer unit from its enterprise division, will be completed by Nov. 1. That will be legal end of Hewlett-Packard as it exists currently; the company will divide into HP Enterprise and HP Inc. But the change was already evident at its big user conference, HP Discover, this week.
The company unveiled a new logo for HP Enterprise, a green rectangle that evokes the work of the late minimalist artist Sol LeWitt. The PCs and printers that once had a prominent place at HP Discover were shuffled to the side.
HP executives at the conference were so enthusiastic about the benefits of the split that one wonders why the company wholeheartedly rejected the spinoff idea in 2011. "The fact that we don't have to explain why we're separating is a huge thing," said Antonio Neri, senior vice president and general manager of the enterprise group.
If it were only that simple.
Customer decisions to stay with HP will be only partly based on technology. Established relationships with HP support teams and related third-party vendors are often as important to customers, if not more so, than the latest flash drive storage system.
"What about my support teams -- how is this going to change?" asked Brigham Freeth, an IT manager at an aerospace company he ask not to identify, after Tuesday's keynote presentation.
Freeth said support has been the No. 1 reason he has stayed with HP. The company's products tend to be a little more expensive, a bit higher-end, than competing offerings, he said, "but I don't mind paying that cost as long as I get the support."
HP officials have been meeting with customers to assure them that the split won't disrupt their businesses. They say the separation will, instead, improve support.
Mike Nefkens, HP's executive vice president of enterprise services, said the company won't be waiting for customer RFPs to deliver help. "We will be quicker to respond, and much more proactive," he said, adding that the new company will be "pushing innovation heavily."
Despite some uncertainty about support, it was hard to find users who thought that the split was a bad idea.
"Their message of a one HP that we heard about for the past few years was kind of a myth that was never realized anyway," said Tim Hansen, an IT operations manager at a financial services firm.
On the technology front, HP sees cloud adoption as an inevitability, and its approach is to develop systems that support any cloud platform. At the conference, it announced updates to its HP Helion system for running cloud environments that included support for Amazon Web Services clouds and multiple hypervisors.
Another inevitability for data centers, says HP, is flash storage. The company is boosting its 3Par storage family, but notably the main news was a 25% decrease in the cost of flash. HP says the cost of all-flash storage is $1.50 per usable gigabyte.
The conference continues this week with the subtle green logo announcing the new HP. It's a simple design, and that reflects part of the message that HP CEO Meg Whitman shared with attendees -- she said it represents a simpler structure and a new level of focus.