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Changing Of The Guard

I'd guessed already that Carly Fiorina might not be too much longer for Hewlett-Packard; some of the maneuvering on the company's board was starting to suggest issues for her. But I don't think anybody guessed that she'd be out this fast, ending one of the more meteoric rises and falls that a major IT company has seen anytime recently. However, although Fiorina may be gone (and let's face it, her enforced vacation will not be all that long), I don't think that the Fiorina era at HP is quite over yet. It'll take a while for the HP board to regroup and find their new person, and in the meantime, she's committed the company to too strong a direction to change it on a dime. Picture an ocean liner coming about, and you'll get the idea. So that means that HP's server strategy is still going to be key to the company's fortunes going forward, probably even continuing through her successor's reign. That market is much too key to HP's fortunes, and too potentially lucrative, to walk away from...

...or is it? I spoke with the folks at Egenera this week on the heels of their various announcements, and their strategy is interesting. Egenera is concentrating, with its improvements to its BladeFrame server management system, on putting more server functions onto software over hardware, creating a virtualized environment that's simple to manage with on-the-fly configuration changes from a console. "It's a system where you're really relying on nothing but the processors and memory; everything else happens in the software," says Susan Davis, Egenera's VP of product marketing and management.

If I was managing a large room and I could find tested software that would let me cut down to low-power blades and commodity boxes and host multiple environments on each one, would I be inclined to jump at that? No question. That's an approach that has to interest server managers who are looking for ways to keep their rooms cool, their costs down and their time spent as efficiently as possible, and it fits a trend toward virtual-machine environments that seems to be growing. Linux server managers are going to have the Xen virtualization technology available if/when they upgrade to the 2.6 kernel, and even Microsoft, with some increased emphasis on Virtual Server 2005, is recognizing that customers are interested on having multiple-OS environments and easily manageable nodes on their installations. Server hardware manufacturers are going to have to adjust their strategies to take account of this trend, and that includes whomever ends up replacing Carly Fiorina.