HPE Discover London 2016: Company Did What They Needed To Do

By Patrick Moorhead - December 6, 2016
Hewlett Packard Enterprise, HPE, held their bi-annual Discover conference in London this past week, and I, along with other analysts and global press, was eager to see what’s next for the still relatively-new company. It’s been less than six months since HPE held Discover Las Vegas so this isn’t a one-shot deal where the company must address everything. It’s also important to recognize the primary target market for the event is customers and the channel and secondarily the tech press and analysts. Even one more fine point, this event is primarily targeting non-US companies who wouldn’t have attended Las Vegas. The General Session keynotes were particularly informative, and here are my takeaways from Day 1 and Day 2 after watching them. Overall, HPE did what it needed to do at Discover London and it’ll be good when the company churn stops and we get to a stasis point. Day 1 General Session:  Day 1’s address was dedicated to the talk of digital disruption and transformation. CEO Meg Whitman outlined four points of discussion for the day:
  1. How digital transformation fueled by the explosion of apps and data is disrupting every industry
  2. How this is driving a fast-emerging world where everything computes
  3. How HPE and their ecosystem of partners are helping customers accelerate in this new age
  4. How HPE’s strategy (anchored on hybrid IT and the Intelligent Edge) is accelerating innovation and timed value for their customers.
She went on to divide industries into three categories—those who have already transformed, those in the process of transforming, and those about to be transformed. Of course, none of this talk was new to anyone in the industry who regularly attends these conferences and the word “digital transformation” is way overused, but it was a good frame of reference for current potential customers who don’t attend 40 tech events a year. Whitman recapped some announcements from the last Discover held in Las Vegas this past summer (which I attended, and wrote about here and here). She also spoke more on HPE’s announcement three months ago that they would be spinning off and merging their software business assets with Micro Focus in the UK. She bragged on Micro Focus a bit, saying that the company has never shut down a product that they acquired and merged with, and that their growing assets will be important moving forward. This was intended to give new Micro Focus customers from HPE a better feeling. Mission critical applications One of the biggest differentiators Hewlett Packard Enterprise brings to the table is its participation in mission critical applications, those which cannot go down and must be up, like finance and airlines. Whitman presented a live video from Alain Andreoli, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Data Center Infrastructure Group, from the show floor. Andreoli spoke of HPE’s acquisition of SGI, and reiterated HPE’s commitment to the portfolios, capabilities, and expertise that SGI brings to the table. He cited SGI’s partnership with Total, in which the two companies managed to triple the compute power of Total’s Pangea supercomputer (which helps applications synthesize billions of geophysical data points on drilling sites). Andreoli also discussed HPE’s prowess at mission critical solutions—running HPE Integrity Superdome X, HPE claims to match petabyte scale with sub-millisecond speeds to save millions of dollars that traditionally gets lost in down time. Andreoli wrapped up his segment with a promise: “You can trust us when it becomes critical.” He didn’t talk about the Big Data potential SGI brings to the table and I expect more details over the next few months. I believe HPE brings a lot of credibility to the table around mission critical environments, and they do it with X86 technology, too. Introducing 3PAR Flash Now Initiative At this point, Antonio Neri, Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Enterprise Group, took the stage to serve as ringleader for the rest of the session. Neri comes off as incredibly caring and empathetic about customers with an incredible amount of confidence. Neri announced the new HPE 3PAR Flash Now Initiative—giving customers a way to acquire HPE’s 3PAR StoreServ Storage platform on-premises, for an affordable $.03/usable gigabyte per month. According to HPE, the initiative aims to “address demand for flexible consumption models, accelerate all-flash data center adoption, assure the right level of resiliency, and help customers transform to a hybrid IT infrastructure.” The 3PAR Flash Now Initiative is one of the best offerings to date that can favorably compete with Amazon.com’s AWS storage offerings and we believe this will accelerate all-flash, enterprise adoption. Senior analyst Gina Longoria wrote about that here in more detail. HPE Synergy and Hyper Converged platforms continue to grow  Composable infrastructure is a big deal because it gives enterprises the same low resource, high utilization infrastructure that the web giants enjoy. Hewlett Packard Enterprise did a full court press at last year’s Discover London and it was Ric’s job to show progress from last year but also from Las Vegas. In August, we wrote about how HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology was using Synergy. Ric Lewis, Senior VP and GM of HPE’s Software-Defined & Cloud Group, took the stage for a while to speak on the merits of HPE Synergy and composable infrastructure. He lauded Synergy’s unified API, which he claims makes it easier to interface with a network of partners. According to Lewis, HPE now has almost 50 partners in the composable structure ecosystem as a part of their partner program, including companies such as Chef, Docker, and Saltstack. This is impressive. They also have almost 100 customers now on Synergy systems. Lewis mentioned multiple satisfied customers—Dish, Emis Health, and Hudson Alpha, and how HPE had helped the companies find the unique hybrid solution that was right for them. He brought Colin Miles, Vice President of EMEA Datacenter and Engineering of Liberty Global (the parent company of Virgin Media) on stage to give a first-hand testimonial on how HPE Synergy has been utilized by the company so far, and how it fits into their roadmap moving forward. Hewlett Packard Enterprise was the first mover with fully composable infrastructure, but competitors are hot on their tail, and in ways, attempting to “embrace and extend” it. If a company is strong in converged, their goal is to be strong in some flavor of composability, but will use different names for it, like Dell EMC's new "service-defined infrastructure". Lewis then made another new announcement—that HPE was now bringing HPE Helion CloudSystem 10 on top of Synergy—the industry’s first private cloud solution built on top of composable infrastructure. According to Lewis, this move will offer customers the opportunity to have private cloud services and traditional applications on a single infrastructure, while enabling cloud admins to compose the resources necessary to deliver private cloud environments. In addition, Lewis says it will make hybrid IT very simple, because it provisions public cloud resources also. Helion has had its challenges and many twists and turns along the way, but I actually like this move.  Lewis continued on to talk about HPE’s Hyper Converged platform. He said that while customers loved the simplicity of the hyper converged platform, they didn’t want another management island in their datacenter. According to Lewis, they won’t have to worry about having a management island, since HPE OneView is at the core of all the hyper converged, Synergy, rack, and 3PAR products. That is true unless you don’t use these management frameworks. All these different pieces of infrastructure share the same management capabilities. Lewis announced that HPE would now be enhancing their hyper converged platform by bringing some composable capabilities to it—specifically, enabling IT to be a service provider for internal lines of business. Lewis described HPE Hyper Converged 380 as an “industry leading platform,” citing a recent independent head-to-head match-up by Consumer Reseller News that declared HC 380 the clear winner over its competitors. Partner Testimonials The remainder of HPE's Day 1’s General Session was dedicated to several partner testimonials. First up was Ben Golub, CEO of Docker. Together, HPE and Docker have successfully built Docker-ready servers (such as Proliant) an industry first, with containers already embedded and ready to develop new applications. In Golub’s opinion, the most important thing the two companies have done together is making procuring and deploying Docker very simple—with integrated support across a wide variety of solutions. This interview was a follow-on to an announcement Docker and HPE made at Las Vegas Discover. Next, Neri introduced Scott Guthrie, Executive Vice President of Cloud and Enterprise at Microsoft. HPE and Microsoft have had a long-standing partnership, geared towards accelerating and simplifying hybrid IT solutions. A year ago, the companies announced their collaboration in the hybrid cloud, with HPE appointed Azure as a preferred public cloud partner for HPE customers, and Microsoft chose HPE as a preferred infrastructure and services partner for their cloud portfolio. Given the Dell EMC tie-up, this relationship become even more important. Back in September, the upcoming HPE | Azure Stack solution was announced—a system that HPE says will deliver Azure compatible infrastructure-as-a-service and platform-as-a-service, and purportedly enable organizations to increase their flexibility and agility. Guthrie and Neri reported that the companies had been working together to integrate Microsoft’s Operations Management Suite with HPE OneView, and announced the creation of “joint innovation centers,” where customers can meet with experts from both companies to learn more about HPE | Azure Stack (the first center recently opened in Seattle, and there are plans to open a second location in Europe). HPE is one of three companies to be preferred Azure Stack partners. The Machine Update The last several Discover conferences, we’ve covered a lot about The Machine—HPE’s futuristic vision for memory-driven computing. I had predicted at the last Discover that the next step for The Machine would be a bootable POC and that we would start seeing features of the development program be used in future products. Whitman wrapped up Day 1’s General Session with the announcement that HPE had successfully demoed the first memory-driven computing architecture—the Machine is now officially in prototype mode. This is a really big deal as I can count hundreds of detractors who said that would never happen and that what they did was so hard to do. She also said that HPE’s roadmap for the next several years would include the incorporation of various Machine technologies (such as silicon photonics, advanced non-volatile memory, and memory fabric) into HPE’s portfolio. She went on to say that HPE is also taking steps to, in her words, “future proof” their new product lines, so that they will be able to continue incorporating the new technology as it develops. I see all this as a success and where I had anticipated The Machine to go for a long time. And as I’ve stated before, The Machine has enabled HPE to build an IP war chest which can be valuable in many ways. Day 2 General Session: Day 2’s General Session was all centered around the concept of the Intelligent Edge. HPE got a late start with IoT compared to other IT behemoths, but have very quickly ramped up very, very quickly and have an entire organization dedicated to edge. The reorganization placed all edge activities under Aruba management in its separate division, but will “borrow” compute resources from ES. Whitman started her time quoting some predictions—Intel’s estimate that there will be 200 billion smart objects connected to IoT by 2020, and IDC’s prediction that the IoT market will reach $1.7 trillion by 2020. These numbers are so huge, it’s hard to be wrong and we’ve made our own huge IoT predictions here. Whitman emphasized that the intelligent edge of tomorrow is about creating value—and that will come from three key experiences: workplace, brand, and operational. This is an interesting segmentation and I need to drill into it. HPE recently released an updated version of their Universal IoT Platform they announced in Las Vegas, including three new features: Lightweight M2M support (putting all data in the same format), expanded device management, and increased LoRa support. Industrial IoT analyst Mike Krell will be writing about this in depth, later. Workplaces of the future Whitman then welcomed Keerti Melkote (founder of Aruba, and GM of HPE Aruba Group) to the stage. He led off his segment by talking about his vision of a workplace of the future, which in his opinion, hinges on the development of three areas: pervasive wi-fi, security drawn around users and devices (such as Aruba Clearpass), and indoor, location based services such as Meridian. Melkote also announced the new Universal Profiler (part of Clearpass), a security component that makes every network asset visible to the user—Melkote claims that the Universal Profiler digs deep to find every device that’s connected to the network, and then has the ability to apply policy to those devices. I like applying IoT security via the network and is something Cisco Systems is hot on. But know that it is very sticky and means connecting your IoT and security technologies with a relatively hard line. Not saying that’s bad. Hospitals of the future Next, Melkote brought Rob Harder, head of IT Infrastructure at Plymouth Hospitals, to the stage to talk about hospitals of the future (Plymouth Hospitals run an Aruba wireless network). Harder cited the effort to go paperless as one of Plymouth’s biggest challenges moving forward, saying that the hospital was currently in the process of moving paper information into the digital realm, storing it, and making it available at point of care. He also stated that hospitals will need to move from the traditional fixed computer network to a mobile computer network, which will necessitate state-of-the-art intelligent edge architecture. Harder shared an anecdote about trollies going missing from the emergency division at Plymouth—by affixing wireless tags to the trollies, they were able to determine that the trollies were being hoarded by an adjacent department. It was a great example of using available technology to solve a problem, and goes to show that in the hospital of the future, where everything is connected, it will be much more difficult for resources to go missing. HPE needs 100’s of case studies like this as it was so very good. Factories of the future HPE is relatively strong in the manufacturing datacenter, particularly the compute side. Tom Bradicich, Vice President and General Manager of Servers IoT Systems at HPE, took the stage to talk about industrial applications of HPE’s portfolio. He spoke about the current state of factories—mostly comprised of physical assets that are manually maintained, and subject to lost revenue and productivity due to downtime. The factories of the future, Bradicich maintained, will connect these physical assets through the network, so that factories can monitor equipment wear and tear, predict when costly failures might occur, and eliminate downtime through monitoring and maintenance. We have said this many times in our notes and papers and we agree. This sounded a bit like Cisco Systems’ factory of the future and I’ll need to spend a bit of time digging in to spot the differences. Bradicich then introduced Howard Heppelmann, Divisional Vice President and General Manager of Connected Manufacturing of PTC, a provider of software technology, aimed towards the convergence of the physical and digital worlds. Heppelmann demonstrated the capabilities of a fully automated assembly line, outfitted with sensors and control systems, running PTC’s ThingWorx IoT platform. ThingWorx is capable of machine learning, predictive analytics, and augmented reality, and is powered by HPE’s Converged Edgeline System (EL 1000). Heppelmann lauded Edgeline as the first system capable of truly converging OT (operational technology) and IT. He praised HPE as the best partner PTC has found in offering innovation, choice, and flexibility in IoT deployments. Given this was PTC, I find this a very credible statement on the EL 100. As the segment ended, Whitman once again took the stage. She elaborated that HPE’s work on the Machine and memory driven computing will also drive advances in all these areas, and allow companies to drive new value from data. She used the example of security camera footage—being able to save everything, and have enough compute power to understand the vast amounts of data that is collected. Security is a great edge compute example as it doesn’t make very much sense to send every bit to the “big” cloud to be analyzed. Wrapping Up HPE has been on a pretty good run since they split from HP Inc., and for a few quarters, enterprise revenue looked good, but last quarter it was more about EPS. HPE has had a lot going on with the services software spin-merges which has to take time and focus and it’ll be good to get these behind them. I do like their moves to get skinnier and do see them speeding up, but do believe they need to consider acquisitions either to drive even more scale in current areas, or go bigger in software platforms below applications. So I’m not expecting the changes to end. HPE obviously couldn’t broach these things at an event like this, but then again, I don’t think they needed too either. Their customers wanted to know  — can they look to HPE for the future with compute, storage, networking, hybrid cloud and IoT edge? For the most part I can say “yes” but the company will need to partner in a few areas to get there, which isn’t bad. I would say the highlights of the show were HPE’s new 3PAR Flash Now Initiative and booting The Machine. Flash Now is an innovative alternative Amazon.com’s AWS storage offerings and senior analyst Gina Longoria wrote in more detail on that here. The Machine is a radically challenging and beneficial initiative that literally booted an operating system. As I said in the introduction, HPE didn’t have to say everything, but they said what they needed to say. I’m encouraged by the focus and innovation I’ve seen demonstrated at the past several Discover events—I’ll continue to follow with interest.
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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.