Brutally put H-P runs a highly successful printer business, is pretty well a market leader in storage, sells a lot of servers and PCs but doesn't make enough money doing so, and hasn't got a big enough consulting and services business to offset the commoditisation afflicting its hardware lines, other than printers.

With printers H-P has achieved the trick of making money from a commodity with its brand image and highly profitable printing inks products. But PCs, servers and storage don't need ink refills. That trick won't work. H-P's storage products sell a lot but don't make a lot.

Recently we wrote that the world's biggest disk storage supplier was 'H-P and had been for two and a half years, according to IDC. Customers buy more disc storage systems from it than anyone else, meaning more SAN storage and as much direct-attached storage as they buy from IBM. They also buy more NAS from H-P than anyone else. All in all, H-P has about a quarter of the disk storage market. Its storage software share is 7.6 percent, reflecting the fragmented storage software market. Compared to its disk storage position HP is also weak in data protection sales, hardware and also software, although it has grown strongly in the last year.'

In data protection hardware H-P is active in the LTO consortium and also in DAT-72 with Certance.

H-P has a storage grid initiative which it calls a visionary blueprint. That means it doesn't make a lot of money yet.

It also has its RISS - Reference Information Storage System - for archiving of e-mails, etc.

This is a very wide range of products. Frank Harbist, VP and GM for H-P's ILM, said, "No other vendor can match HP's depth and breadth of storage solutions - ranging from the entry-level to the enterprise and across disk, tape and optical storage technologies." Indeed they can't. But the storage division isn't performing.

Compared to EMC, which has moved strongly into storage software, witness acquisitions of Dantz, Documentum and Legato, H-P has a pretty unremarkable collection of storage software. It has no SAN disk virtualisation product, no well-known information lifecycle management (ILM) products within its StorageWorks umbrella. It has an ILM strategy outlined on its web site but this is a collection of products, mixed SCSI and SATA disk arrays, optical jukeboxes and tape drives.

Its site says about ILM: 'It's not about where information lives, it's about putting information to work, in real-time, throughout its lifecycle, in order to unleash the value of information, to improve competitiveness and create new business opportunities.'

Well, um, yes it is about where information lives, about which tier or type of storage it is on and how it is moved from tier to tier. H-P doesn't have a multi-tier data moving engine driven by settable policies. You get the impression it has wrapped a ILM coat around its products but it's a fairly threadbare one.

In its high-end arrays H-P seems to be falling behind, with HDS, for example, launching its TagmaStore with its virtualisation facilities.

There are the obvious product holes - content-addressable storage for fixed content perhaps, virtualisation and a capable multi-tier ILM product.

H-P customers are faced with a lot of competing storage vendors. There's StorageTek with its growing ILM products, EMC with its storage software, coming storage router platform and recent addition of tape to its portfolio as well as the Dell deal and its coming iSCSI storage. There is IBM with its portfolio, Network Appliance with block and file-level products and software, Dell of course, and lots of storage niche product vendors with excellent products.

I guess we can say that H-P has been an avid follower of storage trends, has a few individually different products - RISS, StorageGrid - but is still too dependent on selling more or less commodity hardware. New but temporary CEO Robert Wayman said in a conference call following Carly Fiorina's ousting: “Storage has been losing market share, and we fell a lot behind in terms of the product roadmap.”

In August last year H-P missed its Q3 estimated earnings. Carly Fiorina pointed he finger at poor performance in the company's enterprise servers and storage business. Three executives subsequently left.

Wayman said H-P will look at the storage management team and processes and improve bottom-line profitability. That means Ann Livermore's organisation, since, as EVP of the Technology Solutions Group she is responsible for storage.

Probably little of substance will happen until a new CEO comes on board and H-P's main strategic issues are dealt with. Then, hopefully the stored up value in H-P's StorageWorks' products can be unleashed and made to earn its living.