HP’s CEO Mark Hurd Resigns

The big news today is that Mark Hurd, the CEO of Hewlett-Packard, has resigned after he was accused of sexual harassment. While cleared of the harassment charges, apparently the company decided that he had violated their standards of conduct. The New York Times has a report, as does the Los Angeles Times.

Mr. Hurd was known as a cost-cutting CEO; his Wikipedia entry has this to say:

Hurd has a reputation for cost-cutting. He laid off 15,200 workers—10% of the workforce—shortly after becoming CEO. Other cost-cutting moves include cutting the IT department from 19,000 to 8,000, reducing the number of software applications that HP uses from 6,000 to 1,500, and consolidating the HP’s 85 data centers to 6. During the recent recession Mark Hurd imposed a 5% pay cut on all employees, where legally permitted, and removed many benefits.

Put another way, this means that 11,000 IT professionals lost their livelihoods under Mark Hurd’s guidance – more employees than most companies. On Glassdoor.com, Mark Hurd received a 34% approval rating from current and former employees. This is amazing, considering that Michael Dell (at Dell) and Sam Palmisano (at IBM) both have 51% approval ratings. Yet, Wall Street loves him…

Interestingly enough, stock prices rose 10% when Carly Fiorina was removed as CEO, but when Mark Hurd resigned, stock prices plunged 10%.

HP has a recent history of sudden departures; Carly Fiorina (previous CEO) was forced out, and the HP spying scandal resulted in a flurry of resignations, including Patty Dunn (chairman), Dr. George Keyworth II (board member), Tom Perkins (board member), and Ann Baskins (General Counsel).

Cathie Lesjak (current HP CFO) was named interim CEO, and is on record declaring that she is not interested in a permanent position as CEO. Interestingly, she retains her post as CFO as well – double duty?

No immediate comments on if there will be any changes at HP, but I would not look for any – after all, an interim CEO isn’t about to restructure the entire company. Still, it’ll be interesting to see what happens next.

Update: CNet has a page that consolidates all of their coverage on Mark Hurd’s departure from HP. Some interesting articles include their take on who might be next as CEO, and CNet’s Charles Cooper also notes the company’s recent tendency toward scandal (and compares HP to Peyton Place).

HP ITRC to Enter Read-Only for Three Days

HP announced that the HP ITRC is to undergo maintenance late in May, during which time the ITRC will be read-only.

Maintenance will start on May 19 at 6:30 am GMT, and end on May 22 at 3:00 pm GMT. During the time that ITRC is read-only, no new forum messages can be posted, and no changes to user profiles, favorites, or notifications will be possible.

All of those that use HP support should be using HP ITRC as much as possible; I’ve found that the HP-UX and OpenVMS support is fantastic. There is quite a lot of expertise behind the readers and responders of the forums.

Microsoft Joins Red Hat in Dropping Itanium Support

Red Hat announced at the end of 2009 that Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 will not support Itanium, and now Microsoft has announced that Windows Server 2008 R2 will be the last version to support Itanium.

This is not good. HP is the largest vendor of Itanium systems – they should be, since Itanium was an HP-Intel joint venture. Intel just introduced the new Tukwila chip in January, and now Windows and Red Hat Enterprise Linux will not be found on the chip.

Most pertinently for HP, this means that Integrity Virtual Machines running Microsoft Windows and Red Hat Enterprise Linux will neither be available nor supported.

SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) is still available for Itanium, as is HP-UX, and OpenVMS is due soon. Time will tell if this bailout by Red Hat and Microsoft will affect HP’s bottom line; Intel should be relatively unscathed.

UPDATE: Fixed factual error.

HP’s Wind-Cooled Data Center in Wynyard Opens

This is extremely interesting news, and has been covered widely in the business and technology press. HP designed and built a data center in Wynyard Park, England (near Billingham) which uses wind for nearly all its cooling needs.

EDS (purchased by HP) announced the building of the data center early in 2009, and the technology involved already was making news. DataCenter Knowledge had an article on it; ComputerWorld’s Patrick Thibodeau also had a very nice in-depth article on the planned data center. ComputerWorld followed up with an equally comprehensive article when the data center opened recently.

Another extensive and illuminating article was written by Andrew Nusca at SmartPlanet.

What is so interesting about the Wynyard data center?

  • It is wind-cooled, and uses a 12-foot plenum (with the equipment located on the floor above).
  • All racks are white, instead of black: this requires 40% less lighting in the data center.
  • Rainwater will be captured and filtered, then used to maintain the appropriate humidity.
  • The facility is calculated to have a PUE of 1.2 (one of the lowest ever). New energy-efficient data centers typically have a PUE of 1.5 or so.
  • HP estimates they could save as much as $4.16 million in power annually.

These are indeed exciting times for data center technology.

A Book Review: “Green IT”

The book Green IT: Reduce Your Information System’s Environmental Impact While Adding to the Bottom Line by Velte, Velte, and Elsenpeter is extremely interesting. Unlike some other books that might go in this direction, this is not a book of theory, nor of political change, nor of persuasion. This is a book for IT staff about how to create a “green” data center and more.

Because of the nature of IT, going “green” can mostly be summed up in one word: electricity. A vast amount of what makes an IT department “green” consists of using less electricity wherever possible. This includes such areas as the corporate data center, the corporate desktops, and much more.

However, the book also gives significant attention to the other big environmental impact of computing: paper. There are a lot of ways to reduce paper use, and this book seems to cover all of them.

The book is in five parts: part I explains why to implement conservation in IT; part II talks about consumption; part III discusses what we as IT users can do individually to help the environment; part IV covers several corporate case studies; and part V expounds on the process of becoming “green” and how to stay that way.

It would have been nice to see more information about how the authors exemplified their suggestions during the creation of the book. The only hint of any environmentally sound practices is the recycled paper logo on the back cover (100% post-consumer fiber). That leaves more questions: did they use thin clients? Did they work from home? Did they use soy ink? Perhaps lastly, where is the e-book?

There is a web site that is set up for the book, but the current breadth of the site is disappointingly anemic. Some of the best web sites for Green IT would be Dell Earth, Intel, as well as IBM’s Green IT and Energy, the Environment, and IBM web sites.

It was interesting to note that HP’s Eco Solutions web site is “heavy” compared to the others – that is, it requires much more processing power to display, and requires a lot more time to download – which translates into more power consumption to view the web site. In addition, IBM and HP are the #1 and #2 in Computerworld’s list of Top Green-IT Vendors – whereas Dell is #6… HP also topped Newsweek’s 2009 list of Greenest Big Companies in America (along with IBM, Intel, and Dell in the top 5).

Hardware Design and the User

A good piece of (computer) hardware shows attention to the user and to user interface design (although not in the software sense). I have had an experience in contrasts of late that show what a difference good hardware engineering can make.

I have been working with the Toshiba Portege M100 laptop, and have found its design to be “interesting” to say the least. The LED lights that describe all of the various details commonly found on the outside cannot easily be seen when the system is in operation: they are pointing towards the ceiling on the top of the open display lid. The mouse buttons are confusing: there is no left/right button – rather, the “right” button is on the bottom and the “left” button is on the top of the two larger buttons. The purpose of the two tiny buttons are unclear.

The batteries and their installation is also an interesting study. The latch to “unlock” the battery is a slider with a locking mechanism in the middle: it is hard to describe. You’ve never seen anything like it, and operating it can be, at least initially, mystifying. There is also no way to determine whether a battery is charged or dead by looking at it.

This machine, the Toshiba Portege M100, can be contrasted with the HP nc4010. Batteries on the nc4010 have a four-LED light display which not only shows the state of the battery, but also provides (for the battery wizards!) an error display (but good luck determining what the error displays are…). The batteries snap into place and are set to go; removing a battery is a matter of moving a spring-loaded latch right next to the battery that shows a battery symbol. The battery symbol is built into the case itself in relief: this prevents the logo from “rubbing off”. Similar symbols can be found for RAM, hard disk, battery #2 (travel battery), and keyboard.

The capability of using a second battery shows foresight on the part of the designers as well: there is no obvious way that the M100 could take a second battery.

Instead of a sliding catch to unlock the top lid like the M100, there is the more commonly seen pushbutton latch. Several LEDs are built into the front edge of the machine – on the corner, so that the displays can be seen both from the top and from the front – that is, these LEDs can be seen easily by the user whether the machine is in operation or not.

Even the logo on the top of the computer itself shows attention (or lack thereof) to detail. The logo on the Portege M100 is only readable to the user (who presumably owns the machine); the HP, like Apple, has their logo large and in the middle and readable to passersby when the machine is open. Apple took this one step further and lit up the logo!

Another common mistake is the port cover on the back of the machine. The Compaq Armada E500, for instance, like so many of its kind, has a large one that goes nearly the entire length of the back of the laptop. Toshiba uses a small one with no obvious way to open it: instead of pulling it down from the top, it is opened by pressing down near the hinge, though there is no description of how to do this on the machine itself.

In all cases, these “latches” or covers will often get broken off and disappear. The HP nc4010 has no cover/latch in the back – thus nothing to break off.

Once again, all ports on the back of HP nc4010 are labeled by labels in relief built directly into the plastic; the Toshiba M100 labels nearly all of them with painted on labeling.

Even the plastic itself shows an attention to detail: the M100 uses a silver-painted white plastic; the nc4010 uses black plastic with no paint. This means that as the machine gets older, the Toshiba M100 will show evidence of the white plastic underneath as the paint is worn away – and the HP shows none of this.

The HP nc4010 is not without its mistakes: there are several painted labels, and there is a PCMCIA insert that can be lost. On the nc4010 the speakers point to away from the listener to the left and to the right – the Compaq Armada E500, though bigger, put them in the front pointing directly up at the listener on the left and right sides.

This sort of engineering can be seen in other areas as well: how hard is it to repair the product, for instance? Many servers – Sun and HP servers in particular – can be easy to maintain. However, consider the Apple laptop: pulling one apart (to replace a hard drive for instance) can require removing 30 or more screws – a definite mistake. Does pulling the system apart require special tools – or any tools at all? Some servers can be maintained, at least in part, without any tools at all – replace PCI cards, install memory, install or replace hard drives – all without tools.

All of this design is not specifically user interface design, but the fundamentals are the same: consider the user, consider what will happen in the future, and consider how the system will be used. In my experience, HP and Compaq have both been excellent in their design engineering.

What are your thoughts and experiences?

Data Center Resources (and the Data Center in a Box)

There is an excellent resource (blog?) titled The Server Rack FAQ which has excellent articles, many complete with videos. The writing is excellent and the site appears to be quite comprehensive.

There is another blog called Data Center Links which has lots of good news as well as a good but not overwhelming set of links. Go check the links out!

There is also the Data Center Knowledge web site which seems to be an excellent and frequently updated news source relating to data center topics.

One topic seems to be hot: data centers in a container. Sun came out a while ago with the Sun Modular Datacenter (also known as Project Blackbox). HP has the Performance Optimized Datacenter (POD). Data Center Knowledge has a nice video about the HP POD. There’s also a nice discussion with HP about the POD from NetworkWorld. Dell announced that they will be powering Microsoft’s cloud initiative with data center containers.

Sun Microsystems has a lot of videos, including many about their data center in a box – including a tour or two, as well as an intriguing test of the durability and operational capability of the data center in a box.

Even IBM is in the market with their Enterprise Modular Data Center (EMDC). CNET had a nice article on IBM’s EMDC, as did DataKnowledge.

This is definitely an exciting area to watch.

An up-coming conference is the Data Center World conference in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 8-12, 2009. I can’t speak authoritatively to whether it is good or bad, but I would say given the presenters and topics and so forth, it sounds like a conference to consider.

There are a couple of journals that might be worth checking out: the Data Centre Management journal from the United Kingdom and the Data Center Journal in the United States.

Putting Linux on a Compaq nc4010

The HP/Compaq nc4010 is a business-class laptop with no CDROM, no DVD, and no floppy – but with network, modem, USB ports, SD slot, and PCMCIA slot. The system has a 1.7GHz Pentium M – snappier than a Pentium II for sure. It will also boot from the network with PXE or from the USB ports.

Booting this platform is the most difficult part. I didn’t try using PXE, because although I was once set up for PXE on my home network, I don’t have the distributions (Kubuntu and Fedora) set up for installing from PXE and it seemed like a bigger headache than try to make it boot through USB. USB booting is not (apparently) enabled by default; it requires setting USB to use Legacy in the BIOS settings – and in my case, it also required playing with the setting for Quickboot: I had turned it off, but upon re-enabling it the system booted from a USB key.

I tried using Fedora 9, but the Live USB version come up in a lower resolution and crashed upon exiting. I tried also Kubuntu Hardy (8.04.1) and it worked beautifully.

Loading Kubuntu was a breeze – and recognized all of the capabilities of the laptop (amazing!). USB works, network works (albeit with proprietary drivers), PCMCIA works – it just works. Even hibernate works (although suspend may not).

I’ve never quite liked Ubuntu, and I mostly chalked that up to its standard themes (brown and orange) and its use of Gnome and so on – never fully experiencing Ubuntu and always wanting to get a better feel for it. I’ve tried running Kubuntu (which uses KDE) before, but never as an “active” desktop.

Kubuntu made a believer out of me. Everything works in the laptop. Even MP3s, Adobe Flash, Java – it all installed cleanly (upon demand) and works out of the box. Installation was extremely simple. The available packages are quite extensive, and include Debian’s packages.

I attribute some of this ease of support (specifically, MP3 support, Flash, Java, proprietary drivers) to the fact that the company behind Ubuntu (Canonical) is not an American company, but a South African company – which has different laws. So they can make it easy to get proprietary “parts” that they could not sell or support otherwise.

I’m switching from my FreeBSD laptop to this one for the most part: this system is smaller, lighter, faster, and has more memory. It was good to build a FreeBSD desktop though – and took more doing than I thought. I wonder what PC-BSD would be like….. Hmm….