Decoding HP’s “Compute” Call To Server Arms

Hewlett-Packard currently holds the #1 worldwide market share in servers in terms of revenue and units, so when the #1 guy stands up and makes technology and market declarations for IT, the industry should probably pay attention. This is true for what Hewlett-Packard calls “Compute”, which is the company’s take on how IT needs to be looking at servers in the future. From my vantage point, “Compute” isn’t just marketing spin because it is called a “vision”. HP is actually laying out a cogent case for what my firm and I see as a future foregone conclusion- a software defined data center (SDDC). The reality is that with today’s mobility, cloud, security and big data and tomorrow’s IoT and AI, IT can’t possibly survive with the same old approaches, and that’s the point Hewlett-Packard is making with “Compute,” additionally providing signposts and guidance along the way to help IT get there.

I wanted to take some time to tell you the way I decode Hewlett-Packard’s “Compute”. If you are looking for the detailed version, you can read our paper here. Otherwise, read on.

It all starts with what’s happening today, but more importantly, what’s happening in the future. Mobile, social, cloud, security and big data are already stretching IT into places it was never designed to go….. and IT is already perceived as too slow at responding to new needs and business opportunities. I mean, seriously, have you ever experienced a time when there’s so much change and turmoil in the business world? Well, all that translates to IT “asks”.

IT is already breaking under the pressure and needs to change. They need to shift to a services-centric mindset and become a strategic business differentiator. To enable this, businesses need to change how they approach their IT infrastructure in order to maximize business outcomes.

This is where HP’s Compute comes into play.

Think of HP’s Compute as a giant pool of processing resources that can think, store, and connect.

Today’s somewhat antiquated way of looking at these resources silos are server, storage and compute. The reason I say somewhat antiquated is that to get to that next level of IT, all those separate resources today need to act as one system, much more optimized for the software and for the cloud. Intel has been driving this very heavily with their version of SDDC, which they call SDI (software defined infrastructure) and you should check their vision out.2000px-HP_logo_2012.svg

I know, to some this sounds nuts, unattainable or just analyst-speak. How nuts was it that eight years ago you never heard of Facebook or Twitter or iPhone? You see, today’s IT infrastructure was built without any of that in mind. And of course not anything with the Internet of Things (IoT) in mind. You think Google, Facebook or even Amazon uses traditional IT? All three of them are on record verifying that they operate in an SDDC environment in one way.  The problem for IT is that they don’t have the 500 Phd’s to figure all of this out.

I like a lot of things about Hewlett-Packard’s Compute. What I like most about Compute is that it doesn’t just give an end point. It’s actually trying to show IT the steps of how to get there from here. HP calls it a “journey” (which it really is) and comes in three phases:

  1. Optimized Compute: This phase focuses on efficiency and productivity as the lines between server, storage and networking start to go away.
  2. Predictive Compute: This phase focuses on flexibility and resource utilization to enable a more service-oriented and cloud-like delivery to internal clients and even end customers. Virtual overlays connect services as resource definition moves from hardware-defined to software-defined.
  3. Autonomic Compute: This phase focuses on taking infrastructure scales to new levels where fungible resource pools are disaggregated to the component level. The IT system is resilient and self-healing.

You can get the drill down on the three phases here.

So this must sound like a horrible day for IT, right? Not so fast. Yes, designated server, storage and especially networking resources love their certifications, badges, and winter vendor trips to warm climates. As IT gets less server, storage, networking engrained, they can then become what the business units and execs really want- a real business partner, helping them impact the topline. While this may sound squishy, think about how much IT roles have changed over the last 50 years. There used to be IT specialties in punch cards and removing tape-based “storage”. CLIs (command line interfaces) are macho, but then again, but so was programming in machine language.

I like Hewlett-Packard’s Compute. Not because I haven’t ever heard of something like it. I research a lot of companies getting into SDDC. What I like so much is that it’s grounded in SDDC and that it actually lays out the steps to get there, not just presenting an end-state. If Hewlett-Packard can connect this message with enterprise IT and deliver the goods, it’s going to benefit them a lot.

If you are looking for the detailed version, you can read our paper here. If you are looking to get the 10 clicks dives on Compute you can join me and head to HP’s event, Discover Las Vegas, June 2-4th. I’ll be there with a few analysts and will be doing a few presentations and panels.