OK, maybe cool is overstating it, but then again, maybe not.

Either way, HP is finally newsworthy for reasons other than being (allegedly) swindled in its purchase of Autonomy and for hiring and firing a succession of CEO’s who (allegedly) did things like give orders for spying, sexually harass an employee, prove unable to come to an agreement with HP's Board of Directors about how the company should be run, and even announce that HP will be getting out of the PC business, which it happens to dominate.

Compare that with this week’s news from the company’s Discover Conference in Barcelona, Spain.

Earlier this week, Facebook CIO Tim Campos flew all the way from Palo Alto, Calif. to Barcelona, Spain to sing the company’s praises. “A partner like HP Vertica thinks like we do,” he said, adding that the company is a “key part” of Facebook’s big data capabilities. Needless to say, that’s a pretty strong endorsement coming from a man who oversees the processing of 2.5 billion pieces of content and 500 plus terabytes of data each day.

That alone makes it hard to argue that HP can’t be trusted with big data.

But Isn’t HP a Dinosaur Soon to Become Extinct?

Sure, the fact that HP was founded in 1939 may make it seem like a dinosaur. Ditto that much of its money is made via client server and consumer products that may not be Apple-cool. That being said, HP does lead the world in server sales (and even in the cloud era, servers won’t be disappear), and it sells a good number of desktops and PCs -- which aren’t dead according to its CEO Meg Whitman. And despite the vibe we get from our friends, it should be noted that she seems to know from where she speaks. Yesterday, Parse.ly released a study that indicates that most content is consumed on screens larger than 320x568, which means they are NOT mobile devices. And according to Marketwatch, PCs outsell tablets in college dorms, thus conditioning another generation about what a computer for “work” looks like.

A Framework to Build On

But it’s HP’s news from, and just before, Discover, that’s the real cause for excitement. Be aware, we are covering HP’s Commercial (vs. Consumer) business only.

HP’s first announcement this week revolved around Converged Systems. While we limited our coverage on Monday to the HP ConvergedSystem 300 for Vertica, it is, in retrospect, worth considering the announcement as a whole.

For anyone who is not familiar with HP’s Converged Systems, they look at hardware, operating systems and software as a whole, rather than disparate parts. Forget the 26 page order forms that companies usually have to fill out when they buy computing systems, HP’s customers now fill out a single page which HP then uses to build, configure and install software on a system that is delivered to its customers in 20 days. All customers need to do is plug them into their networks when they arrive. The newest converged systems offerings focus on Virtualization, Vertica for Big Data Analytics and Hosted Desktops.

It should be noted that earlier this year HP announced HAVEn, an “open” big data architecture that incorporates Hadoop, Autonomy, Vertica, Enterprise Security and a number of apps that can be built on the platform.

The framework makes it easy for the aforementioned products and any one of three Hadoop distributions (Cloudera, Hortonworks, MapR) to connect and interoperate. The framework includes over 700 connectors to feed structured, multi-structured and unstructured data from traditional enterprise sources, including enterprise data warehouses, as well as machine-generated data created by IT infrastructure, social and Web-based data, and unstructured text from corporate documents and emails into the platform.

It’s essentially big data and big analytics made easy / easier. Less time on low value activities means more time for building solutions that add value and make money.

Cool Solutions Built with HP’s HAVEn and Vertica Analytics

At Discover, HP showed-off HP Earth Insights, a real-life application of big data analytics that it built in partnership with Conversation International. The solution uses Vertica Analytics (a foundational element of HAVEn) to measure animal population degeneration. It currently monitors more than 275 species and has already identified 33 which are in active decline. You can see the project’s Wildlife Picture Index here and how the project works here.

HP customer Avnet Technologies Solutions introduced its healthcare analytics platform at the conference. It uses HAVEn to get a cohesive view of a patient, regardless of where the data is stored within a healthcare provider’s infrastructure. It integrates systems across multiple operational and clinical areas such as cardiology, oncology, orthopedics, geriatrics and neurosciences to lower costs and drive efficiency to improve patient care. It’s the kind of “single view” of the patient that marketers wish they’d have of the customer.

A New “Big Data” Architecture Needs to Emerge

While we don’t generally write about storage, when it comes to big data, the two are not unrelated. And this is one of the areas where architecture will have to change.

“The fundamental architecture of computing hasn’t changed for sixty years,” says Whitman. “As the new style of IT takes hold, we are quickly reaching the limits of the architecture. We need a computing architecture for the Big Data age.”

And it’s interesting to note that she isn’t the only one who thinks this.

Great Minds Think Alike

We’ll scoop ourselves and share a quote that we’ll be featuring in an article about SAP’s predictions for 2014. It comes from noted visionary, Steve Lucas, president, SAP Platform Solutions at SAP.

Big Data will force a new storage architecture to emerge,“ he wrote. “As the conversation around Big Data grows beyond ‘data warehousing’ and towards integrating it into core business processes, there will be a growing recognition that big data is a velocity problem first and volume problem second. This will drive the conversation towards technologies that accelerate the end-to-end process to acquire, analyze and act on big data. Furthermore, an increasing concern about the cost of storing massive data sets, and a continued lack of expert resources with NoSQL technologies like Hadoop, will drive a new emphasis on the cloud friendly solutions. However, this emphasis will also force companies to pay attention to advancing questions around data privacy and security, and will force a new infrastructure/roadmap to emerge that can address all concerns.”

We Could Go On …

We could go on and tell you about HP’s innovative hybrid cloud solutions (which will even allow for non-HP components), but our point is made; HP is, once again, a force to be reckoned with. When Meg Whitman took over as CEO in 2011, she may have walked into a management, marketing and public relations nightmare, but the company was, and still is, full of bright, forward-thinking people capable of, and eager to, make their mark in the world of computing. And under Whitman’s guidance that can happen; in fact, it already is. Even Facebook thinks so.