HP loses its cloud guru. Could Autonomy and EDS follow?

We’re one month away from Hewlett-Packard Co.‘s (NYSE: HPQ) Global Partner Conference in Las Vegas, and already the list of tough questions that partners will have for CEO Meg Whitman and her leadership team is mounting

One year ago, it was a love-in in Las Vegas for Whitman and Co., as the new CEO benefited largely from not being controversial former CEO Léo Apotheker and the goodwill of partners optimistic of a turnaround under Whitman’s leadership and appreciative of her re-commitment to HP’s hardware business and the partner channel.

One year later, the turnaround is stalled, earnings are in the red and the fallout over HP’s allegations of accounting improprieties and fraud around its acquisition of analytics vendor Autonomy PLC. Several developments this week will likely also be on the minds of partners in Las Vegas next month.

Chief among them is the departure of HP’s cloud guru (and senior vice-president and GM of HP Cloud Services), Zorawar “Biri” Singh. Singh was poached from IBM in 2011 to put HP on the cloud map and made significant progress, spearheading the creation of its Converged Cloud business unit to bring together cloud computing resources from across HP’s business units. However, according to a report from CRN, several recent personal moves seemed to diminish Singh’s role as head of the cloud business, and the reasons for his departure are unclear.

Meanwhile, with HP looking to bring some green to its balance sheet, the Wall Street Journal reports suitors are coming calling, cash in hand, with interest in two HP businesses: Autonomy, and the former EDS Corp. business that forms the core of HP’s services arm. The latter, a 2008 acqusition that has since been tightly integrated into HP’s existing services arm, would likely be difficult to hive off and sell.

It may be academic though because, while HP needs cash, it doesn’t appear to be in selling mode at the moment. It’s also likely to get nowhere near the $11 billion it paid for Autonomy or the $13.9 billion it paid for EDS.

Whitman did address the Autonomy fallout in a Wall Street Journal video interview, admitting “we paid too much” for the British software company, which was acquired under the leadership of former CEO Apotheker. However, Whitman, who was on HP’s board of directors at the time, also went on the defensive, saying it’s unrealistic for the board to have known they were over paying when the balance sheet was deliberately obstructed and auditor Deloitte had signed off.

While it may not have been possible to uncover deliberate obfuscation, the near universal reaction of “They paid how much? For what exactly?” that greeted news of the deal at the time shows a little more skepticism wouldn’t have been out of line.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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