I begin this article with a confession: I walked/dragged myself to HPE Discover 2019 feeling a little burned out. It is the last show in what seems like a very long conference season, and though every conference is unique, and every technology vendor has a compelling story, it’s easy to start feeling like Charlie Brown in a classroom. It all starts to sound like “blah, blah, blah.”
This was not the case at HPE Discover 2019. In fact, it was difficult to capture all of my thoughts in a thousand words or less for this article. This first column will be devoted to some of the major things that stood out, while I’ll go into more depth on some of the HPE news and narratives in following columns.
Cloudless: a concept
Cloudless does not mean an IT environment without a cloud presence. Rather, it’s reflective of the future state of IT, in which data, applications, workloads, compute, and storage reside everywhere—on prem, hybrid, public, multiple public clouds, and on the edge. IT has to be able to manage this very complex environment simply, via point-and-click deployment and movement of workloads and applications based on data locality. Furthermore, it requires security from the point of data origination to the transformation into actionable intelligence. Lastly, it requires a brokering engine that enables IT to quickly determine where data and apps reside based on any number of factors including cost, governance and sovereignty, regulatory requirements, and more.
HPE’s strategy is to deliver the tools that enable IT to break down the siloes that exist between clouds. At the event, HPE articulated and prioritized these challenges to tackle over time. Disappointed that there was no product announcement? Don’t be. This is a big challenge to tackle and requires a strong and cooperative partnership with many other technology providers. HPE is staking a leadership position simply by articulating its strategy. This really is the beginning of the conversation.
GreenLake is real
Let’s get some news out of the way. HPE announced that by 2022 all products and solutions will be offered “as-a-Service (XaaS)” via GreenLake’s flexible consumption model. Additionally, HPE announced that GreenLake offerings will be extended to mid-sized customers via channel partners.
The popularity of consumption-based computing is evident in the growth of GreenLake. Its growth in enterprise appears to be skyrocketing, as is its growth in the channel. And this channel—the SMB market—is where GreenLake can be really interesting. The ability for channel partners to drive specialized services on top of GreenLake makes this solution attractive in a market where differentiation seems to be increasingly more difficult to achieve.
To be clear, this announcement does not mean that HPE products and services can only be consumed through XaaS. It simply means that GreenLake can be a delivery vehicle.
Is this a smart move? I think so—the IT world is quickly moving toward a “as-a-Service” model, and HPE is wise to get ahead of it. Will it negatively impact server sales? I’m fairly certain it won’t—we’ve heard about the negative impact to server revenue since the early days of virtualization. The market still awaits that reality. Furthermore, the availability of many services such as Analytics-as-a-Service should open up new opportunities that would not have been realized otherwise.
If I had a recommendation for HPE with regards to GreenLake, it would be this: make the story simple. As the company reaches down into the SMB market with channel partners, the GreenLake message has to be really concise and consumable. This will assist channel partners as small and mid-sized customers can create some “pull” to complement a channel “push.”
Doubling down on the (intelligent) edge
A complete edge solution must consider local data aggregation and processing (compute and storage), connectivity to the cloud and the datacenter (networking), and security. Further, for industrial edge solutions to be effective, the operation technology (OT) must be tightly coupled with information technology (IT). Meaning, the data that is being generated by sensors and machines on a factory floor or power plant must be aggregated, transformed, and presented as actionable intelligence to the IT environment.
A quick rundown on what HPE announced at Discover:
- Integration of ABB Ability Smart Sensor Technology – This partnership enables the wireless capture of data on OT equipment like motors and pumps. Through integration with HPE’s Edgeline servers and OT-Link platform, monitoring equipment is seamless. As products like HPE Infosight are more deeply integrated, the ability to predict and prevent failures before they occur will prove invaluable.
- Secure Edge Datacenter for Microsoft Azure Stack – This HPE, Microsoft , ABB, and Rittal joint development is the first enterprise-grade edge appliance for Microsoft Azure Stack. This means, essentially, enterprise-grade compute capability that can exist in extreme conditions.
- Edgeline IoT Quick Connect – IoT Quick Connect is what enables the real-time monitoring and control of IoT devices by integrating the HPE Edgeline OT Link Platform with Edgeline Servers and Microsoft Azure IoT.
- Fast Start Condition Monitoring – As previously mentioned, the key to successful edge deployments is the integration of OT and IT. However, this is difficult to achieve and there are technical and cultural challenges that can be overwhelming. Fast Start Condition Monitoring is a set of services and best practices from HPE’s Pointnext Services team that enables customers hit the “time to value” milestone faster.
HPE announced the delivery of IoT and edge offerings that should accelerate the adoption of edge deployments. There were a few announcements that span cloud, networking, and industrial edge deployments.
Zero Trust – a comprehensive security strategy
HPE’s approach to security is pretty simple: trust nobody, ever. This approach to securing data started with the launch of its Gen10 ProLiant platform, when the company released what it called the most secure industry standard server. HPE has strengthened this message, and product offering, over time (Moor Insights has written about HPE’s capabilities extensively here and here).
The message at Discover 2019 was an amplification and extension of this story. The crux is quite simple: as the IT market continues to evolve toward a hybrid world where private and public cloud are connected to an edge environment (which HPE believes will account for 70%-80% of data generation), security is more important and potentially more complex than ever before.
HPE’s vision is right on—organizations should secure data from the moment it’s created/acquired to the grave, and security should be wrapped around that data whether at rest, in flight, or at work. I expect HPE will further demonstrate its security capabilities in time, and as a foundational element of its cloudless vision. As with GreenLake, I believe HPE would be well-served to further evolve this narrative into something that is easily consumed by the IT market. The power of the solution should not be lost in the complexity of the technology.
HPE’s success has been largely aided by a strong and vibrant channel program. It’s clear that these very same partners are also seen as critical to HPE’s future. It was encouraging to hear HPE acknowledge this fact with its hyper-focus on enabling partners. Virtually every discussion of products and services in the market had an acknowledgment of HPE’s partners in delivery.
Speaking with past colleagues who work at some of the largest channel partners in the US, it was clear that HPE is actively working on its channel engagement efforts—from distributors such as TechData, to national resellers, to smaller, specialized value add resellers (VARs).
Mid-market is critical to HPE’s success
HPE has always been strong in enterprise IT, and now it has an opportunity to expand its footprint in mid-market and small business through its channel partners. The company’s product offerings, customized “as-a-Service” solutions that span line of business applications, and its data management and analytics platforms all position it well. The ability for a small or mid-sized business to harness the power of a high-end data analytics platform through a channel-driven GreenLake offering would be quite appealing to many organizations that have neither the budget nor the IT resources to stand up such a solution internally. Working with partners to deliver high-value solutions as-a-Service would be a wise investment of resources and funding.
HPE found its mojo (did it ever really lose it?)
After speaking with a number of partners, customers, and fellow analysts, the consensus was that HPE found its groove. This begs the question, did the company ever lose it? Personally, I think not. Rather, I believe the last couple of years have been transitional as the company shifted leadership and honed its focus. What we saw at Discover 2019 was simply an articulation of that strategic planning and product vision.
The next few quarters will be important for HPE. It staked a few bold claims around XaaS, Cloudless, GreenLake, and security. Demonstrating execution against its vision through product releases and demonstrations is a must, and I’ll be looking for proof of success in each area in my coverage of next year’s Discover in June 2020.