HPE announced its ProLiant Gen11 portfolio spanning compute, security, operations, cloud, and workload optimization. With a theme of "compute engineered for your hybrid world," this launch has three focus areas:
- Creating an intuitive cloud operating experience
- Delivering secure solutions that are trusted by design
- Compute platforms and environments that are optimized for your workloads
So, what does all of this mean? And why should an enterprise IT organization care? We’ll try and cover this in the following paragraphs.
First – the setup
For those keeping track at home, HPE announced the Gen10 portfolio in the summer of 2017. When the company launched Gen10, AMD had launched its 1st Generation EPYC Processor; Intel launched its next-generation Xeon Processor based on its Purley microarchitecture.
The messaging for Gen10 was heavily focused on security, with the company creating market separation with its silicon root of trust technology – an HPE-designed, hardware-validated boot process that ensures a computer system can only be used from an immutable source. In simpler terms, an HPE-designed security mechanism ensures your servers aren't hacked during the boot process.
A lot has happened since 2017. Digital transformation, fueled by a thirst for data, has torn down the physical construct of a datacenter. Hybrid multi-cloud is the operating model, and the explosion of apps and the edge has led to emerging workloads going from nascent to mainstream in seemingly real-time. And all of this has led to a strategy shift for companies like HPE.
In 2019, CEO Antonio Neri stood on stage and proclaimed the company's intent to deliver everything in its portfolio as a service to meet the evolving needs of the modern business.
Fast forward to the fall of 2022, and the vision behind Neri’s strategy was spot on. And HPE has delivered.
It's important to give this backdrop as it provides context for three Gen11 pillars (intuitive cloud experience, secure and trusted environments, workload-optimized platforms). Also, this history lesson underscores the vision and leadership HPE has shown in this industry shift to the hybrid world.
What exactly was announced?
We got a hint of HPE’s Gen11 theme back at Discover 2022 when the company announced its ProLiant Gen11 RL300 server platform, based on Ampere's Arm CPU, with support for OpenBMC (an open baseboard management controller firmware stack) that enables the server to be managed at the lowest levels by the toolsets used by cloud providers and hyperscalers. Moor Insights & Strategy CEO and Chief Analyst Patrick Moorhead and I covered this announcement here.
This brings us to the full announcement, extending HPE's reach into the cloudified datacenter. While HPE launched many new ProLiant Gen11 server platforms, it also delivered tools and services that complete the hybrid cloud experience. To tie all of this together, I will focus on the technology announced, connected to the Gen11 themes.
Pillar 1 – the intuitive cloud experience
As any enterprise IT professional knows, managing infrastructure has always been extremely manual, time-consuming, and tedious. And these three factors lead to inconsistency. Firmware that doesn't get updated on some servers, driver updates that seemingly take forever, and a resulting slow-performing environment may very well have security vulnerabilities. Add in a cloud and edge environment, and IT pros are set up to fail.
HPE has long had a strong offering in infrastructure management with its iLO management controller and OneView (OpenView for those with a bit of gray hair) to manage on-premises infrastructure. As an ex-IT executive, I can tell you personally that HPE’s toolset saved many a sleepless night and enabled a small IT staff supporting a large enterprise to find significant operational efficiencies.
HPE introduced HPE GreenLake for Compute Ops Management to help IT organizations to extend this control over their hybrid edge-to-cloud environments. This HPE-managed SaaS offering extends management of this new IT environment and allows those formerly overwhelmed IT professionals to focus on providing greater value to the business.
In Gen11, HPE GreenLake for Compute Ops Management now ships standard with all servers. Further, the company claims that firmware updates can happen up to five times faster across thousands of servers.
Further, as sustainability takes its rightful place as a key performance indicator (KPI) for many IT executives, HPE GreenLake for Compute Ops Management can now provide carbon footprint emission metrics for reporting.
Finally, HPE GreenLake for Compute Ops Management automates the issue notification and case creation process – meaning hardware (and other) issues are handled faster without IT intervening.
Pillar 2 – trusted by design
I may seem slightly biased as it applies to HPE's security strategy and portfolio. I'm not. But I've been covering the company's approach to delivering a secure server platform. This area has been HPE ProLiant's biggest differentiator over the last few years – especially when it first announced silicon root of trust.
Rather than sit on its advantage, HPE has actively strengthened its security posture. From secure booting to resilience through automated recovery to incorporating all of its portfolios into a zero-trust architecture that extends from boot to securing applications and data.
There is a legitimate argument that can be made for compute platforms having some level of performance parity as it's the underlying CPU and application accelerator that drives raw performance. But when it comes to manageability and security, the server vendors can drive true differentiation. And I believe this is where HPE has shined. From in-house development to the integration of smart acquisitions, the company has developed and executed a strategy that gives customers of all types and sizes confidence in the platforms that run and house its most secret data.
In Gen11, HPE has enhanced its security posture. First, the company has expanded its secure supply chain by supporting the secure manufacturing of more servers in its portfolio worldwide (for more information on this, read my coverage here).
Second, the company ensures the reliability of the server boot experience by performing authentication through platform certificates and iDevID (read here for more). And further, HPE ProLiant servers have TPM integrated by default.
Finally, the company has added protection leveraging the DMTF’s security protocol and data model (SPDM) so that Gen11 servers with iLO6 can verify third-party components. This feature adds yet another layer of protection for the hybrid IT environment.
Pillar 3 – Optimized performance for your workloads
The cloudified datacenter has to support a lot of environments. Scale-out cloud-native applications need to run alongside and integrate traditional scale-up applications that have been the backbone of the business for a long time. And the tools used to extract, transform, and analyze data require a unique set of compute characteristics.
And this brings us to the big hardware reveal (for now) around Gen11. HPE is announcing new platforms designed and built around AMD's 4th Generation EPYC Processor (codenamed "Genoa") and its previously announced Ampere-based server.
Because HPE's announcement predates AMD's launch, we cannot disclose performance numbers. But based on what's publicly available, I expect significant gains.
I like how HPE, like other server vendors, continues expanding the spaces its AMD portfolio will support. Looking back at the initial release of EPYC, it is clear the processor has gained the trust (and preference) of HPE customers.
What about Intel’s Sapphire Rapids? When Intel launches this processor family, HPE will support Gen11. We will be sure to cover this at announce.
For those wondering about the availability of Gen11 in GreenLake offerings, rest assured that HPE will support the range of solutions available through HPE ProLiant and its ecosystem partners. And while not yet confirmed, I am confident that the company will update its high-performance computing portfolio to support the new processors from AMD and Intel.
A couple of final observations
HPE has figured out that the modern enterprise does not live on-prem alone. Nor does it live solely in the cloud. As much as we hate to use the term, the modern enterprise is hybrid multi-cloud. And the IT solutions provider that will succeed long term is the vendor that can satisfy the diverse needs that span hardware to software – from edge to cloud – in a highly secure and performant manner.
I think HPE is doing that. For enterprise IT pros, I would say look at the long game. Don't pay attention to the point in time trackers that don't consider the transition the market is experiencing. Map out your long-term vision and see what partner aligns best. Whether that vendor is HPE or another company – you’ll be better served.
But my two cents? HPE is on the right track.