Top HP Server Exec Jumps Ship to Dell
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
Brad Anderson, the senior vice president and general manager of Hewlett-Packard's $8 billion Industry Standard Server unit, has jumped ship and moved over to rival Dell. Both companies are being coy about the move, with HP maintaining silence and Dell only admitting that sometime in July Anderson will become the fourth senior vice president in Dell's Product Group Council, which includes Jeff Clarke, Alex Gruzen, and John Medica.
Clarke and Gruzen have managed the manufacturing and marketing of desktops, workstations, laptops, printers, and displays within Dell's Product Group. Clarke is a long-time Dell employee and started out at the company as a quality assurance engineer, eventually rising to launch Dell's Precision workstation line in 1997. Gruzen worked for HP and Compaq prior to joining Dell, and was general manager for mobile computing at HP. Medica hails from Apple, and was the project leader for the Macintosh II desktop and Powerbook laptops; he joined Dell in 1993 to spearhead Dell's re-entry into the laptop market after Dell delayed its entry into the market for various reasons.
What none of these executives have is experience in the server business, where HP has just gained some traction against Dell in the first quarter. Anderson, of course, has lots of experience in servers. He joined Compaq in 1996 from Cray Research (the part of the split Cray company that sold computers, not to be confused with Cray Computer, the half of the formerly whole Cray that did research on future computer designs). When Cray Research sold off its Sparc-based server line to Sun Microsystems, Anderson joined Compaq, and he eventually worked his way up to the vice president position, at one time running Compaq's SMB server segment and then running its core enterprise server unit. When Mary McDowell, the general manager of Compaq's very successful Industry Standard Server unit, was somewhat strangely kicked upstairs to a strategy and planning role in the wake of HP's acquisition of Compaq in 2002, Anderson was tapped to replace her, and he has held that role ever since.
Interestingly, it was Anderson who steered HP toward Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron alternative to Intel's Xeon processors for servers, and HP has gained mind share and some market share because of this move. Dell has been under a lot of pressure from Intel (as have other server makers) to not use Opteron chips, and with AMD suing Intel on antitrust grounds, there is no better time for Dell to grab one of HP's top execs, who knows the ins-and-outs of dealing with AMD and an irritated Intel, to deliver a line of Opteron-based products. Dell says that it is not clear what the division of labor within the Product Group will be, but given Anderson's background in servers and the other three execs on the council not having deep server experience, it should not be much of a mystery who will be doing what.
HP was not prepared to talk about Anderson's departure, which makes it seem like his leaving was somewhat unexpected. The controller of the Industry Standard Server unit, Christine Reischl, has been named its interim general manager, and Mark Hurd, HP's new president and CEO, is undoubtedly looking for someone to run this crucial unit of the company. It could turn out that HP simply folds the Industry Standard Server unit into its Business Critical Server unit, placing it all under the control of Rich Marcello, who has run the HP 9000, AlphaServer, and Integrity server lines for many years. Such an organization makes a certain amount of sense, given the increasing commonality between various server platforms at HP. The processors change, but a lot of other features inside servers are shared, and this will only increase with time.
The one interesting thing that Hurd might do is bring back McDowell, who was given the token job of senior vice president of strategy and corporate development after running Compaq's Intel-based server unit for four years--the four years of Compaq's explosive growth in servers prior to the HP merger in 2002. A year after HP finished the Compaq deal, it converged its server and storage units, and McDowell was clearly in the running for that top job and didn't get it; HP's own Scott Stollard, who had been running the BCS unit, was given this top job spanning all servers and storage. McDowell then went on sabbatical, which was not a good sign that she was going to stick around, and was given the token SVP job. In November 2003, telecommunications giant Nokia tapped McDowell to be senior vice president and general manager of its Enterprise Solutions group, which peddles VPN, security, and connectivity products to enterprises. McDowell, who was hired in 1986 out of college by the then-new Compaq, didn't just work at Compaq, but helped define what it was and what its products were. She was an obvious choice to run HP's ProLiant server business several years ago, and that still holds true today.