HPE’s Transformation Was On Full Display At Discover 2022

Digital transformation, modernization, zero trust and data-driven are buzzwords every IT executive has likely heard one too many times. Nevertheless, these concepts are keys to survival in the digital economy. This is a truism for companies across all vertical industries, including those that build the technology fueling modernization projects.

HPE started its transformation in 2018, with the introduction of GreenLake. At Discover 2019, Antonio Neri announced that by the end of 2022, every HPE product in its portfolio would be offered as-a-Service. And then Covid hit.

HPE Discover felt much more energized this year. Maybe it was the two-year hiatus and the transformation of HPE’s portfolio in the intervening years, or maybe it was Janet Jackson. Probably a bit of all three. Regardless, here are my big takeaways from HPE Discover 2022.

HPE is embracing native cloud with Arm

In case you didn’t hear, HPE announced the ProLiant RL300 Gen11 server, a 1u single-socket server packing up to 128 single-threaded Ampere Altra (or Altra Max) CPUs. While the ProLiant team may not have been consciously trying to make a statement, the introduction of an Arm-based server as the first member of the ProLiant Gen11 family did it for them.

HPE introduces the first major OEM server based on Arm HPE

According to the announcement materials, the new server specifically targets digital enterprises and service providers. Both of these target markets make sense. Arm-based instances in the cloud have seen a lot of success since they achieved performance parity with x86 for cloud-native applications, at a lower cost and power envelope to boot. It makes sense that an enterprise with a significant digital presence would want to replicate this environment in-house. Think about it—hundreds to thousands of servers running your cloud-native workloads, with each server delivering considerable cost savings. It adds up.

The service provider space also makes perfect sense. As-a-Service can help customers of all sizes realize the same economic benefits as the cloud giants such as AWS, Azure and Oracle Cloud (OCI).

One of the things I found very interesting about this announcement was the inclusion of the OpenBMC firmware stack. HPE, like other server vendors, likes to provide a premium management experience through its iLO baseboard management controller (BMC). Utilizing a vendor-specific BMC stack hooks IT organizations into using that vendor’s management console (in this case, OneView).

By populating the RL300 with the OpenBMC firmware stack, HPE fully is fully embracing the realities of the cloud-native datacenter, where open-source tools are used to deploy, provision and manage infrastructure. It is the seemingly smaller things like this (support for OpenBMC) that demonstrates HPE’s understanding of what the hybrid future looks like and how it should align its portfolio to meet the needs of the market.

HPE ProLiant RL300 Gen11 highlights HPE

Some may read this and think “interesting, but this isn’t going to be successful.” Given the fits and starts that Arm has had in the datacenter, I get it. But think about this – HPE would not be investing the millions of non-recurring engineering (NRE) dollars into a mainstream platform unless there was a market and customers were asking for it. In an era when server portfolios are shrinking across many vendors, HPE invested in this platform. This should tell you something.

For complete coverage on the RL300, read this analysis I wrote with Moor Insights & Strategy (MI&S) Founder and CEO Patrick Moorhead. Also, watch this video where MI&S colleague Steve McDowell and I quickly analyze the announcement.

HPE is a services company

HPE announced GreenLake back at Discover 2018. A year later, HPE CEO Antonio Neri stood on stage and proclaimed that the entire HPE portfolio would be made available “as-a-Service” through this still newish consumption-based model by the end of 2022.

Fast forward to 2022, and the transformation has happened. HPE is, without a doubt, a services company. Throughout the keynotes and the individual sessions, the company seems to be singularly focused on GreenLake as the delivery vehicle for tailored solutions such as cloud-native, data analytics, machine learning and HPC.

How focused is the company? Let’s put it this way – apart from the RL300 announcement, I don’t think I heard ProLiant mentioned. Nor did I see the brand on any signage on the show floor or anywhere else. I’d say the same for the HPE storage portfolio. 

Does HPE no longer sell servers, storage and networking? Of course not! In addition to being the building blocks of GreenLake, the company will continue to sell the entire portfolio of servers, storage boxes and networking solutions. The world is full of companies that still buy, rack and deploy infrastructure in the traditional manner. Still, the company’s direction is clear.

A final note on HPE as a service company. It’s one thing to deliver the portfolio in a consumption-based manner. Other OEMs have certainly followed HPE’s lead. What makes HPE unique is its organizational pivot and drive to as-a-Service, not just through branding and consistency of messaging, but across the company and functions. I have spoken with HPE customers, channel partners and ecosystem partners. This company has a GreenLake-first mindset. 

GreenLake Managed Services (GMS) is a function within HPE that maybe doesn’t get as much coverage as it should, but I find it extremely valuable as an ex-IT person. For companies looking to deploy one of the over 70 cloud services on GreenLake, there are still many challenges around planning, deploying, provisioning, securing and governing my environment. But as any IT person can attest, there aren’t hours in the day to stand up and support new environments. With GMS, I can hand this function to the GreenLake team to manage for me. And this is lifecycle management, including regulatory and licensing compliance and license optimization. In short—IT can continue to drive transformation, the IT budget can realize savings through licensing optimization and the CISO can rest a little better at night.

HPE GreenLake Managed Services can deliver lifecycle management HPE

Security continues to be a key pillar of the HPE strategy

I’ve been writing about HPE’s security capabilities since it introduced silicon root of trust into its ProLiant servers in 2017. What started as a method to protect infrastructure at the lowest levels has evolved into a full-stack, zero-trust architecture. Actually, full-stack may not be a fair statement as security starts in the supply chain.

HPE’s posture on security as a selling point has also evolved since 2017. When the company’s ProLiant Gen9 servers first launched, the selling point was “the industry’s most secure servers.” Fast forward to 2022, and the view is that security and zero trust is a fundamental design principle.

With this said, I think security is more than a design principle – it appears to be baked into the company’s fabric. This may seem hyperbolic, but the company has invested heavily in securing HPE environments. Below are a few quick thoughts on what I gleaned from Discover – a more detailed viewpoint will be published next week.

1. Remember Project Aurora? It’s real.

HPE announced Project Aurora at Discover 2020. Project Aurora is a zero-trust architecture that locks down HPE infrastructure from sourcing materials to end of life. Not only that, Project Aurora is designed to build a secure chain of custody across the lifecycle and up the stack – from silicon to the data being created and used in workloads and applications (you can read my coverage of it here). 

Fast forward a year, and you may wonder whether Project Aurora ever moved beyond the project phase. The answer is yes. HPE is enabling the functionality of Project Aurora in its newly announced GreenLake Enterprise Private Cloud solution. It makes sense that we would see Project Aurora instantiated in the Private Cloud solution first, as this is a very controlled environment. I expect this to be rolled out into all GreenLake offerings in the near future.

2. Shared Responsibility – HPE offers a framework for securing the hybrid environment.

So here’s the question for you IT pros. Do you feel completely comfortable understanding the shared responsibility between you and your public cloud provider regarding security? From the conversations I’ve had, the answers have been mixed.

However, when GreenLake or a GreenLake-like model is introduced into the environment, those lines get blurred.

he blurred lines of responsibility HPE

Enter HPE GreenLake Security Shared Responsibility Model (SSRM). The SSRM gives HPE and its customers a clear line of responsibility and ownership spanning the different potential deployment scenarios.

For those who are still a little confused as to what SSRM is – it is not a piece of software or hardware. It’s an HPE-developed framework that enables an enterprise IT organization to manage its security profile when deploying workloads and data on GreenLake. I like to equate SSRM to kind of a RACi (responsible, accountable, consulted, informed) Matrix in project management in that clear boundaries are drawn so that security ownership is never called into question.

SSRM – defining ownership of security HPE

The SSRM session that HPE Chief Security Officer Bobby Ford and A&PS Operations Lead Simon Leech held was well worth watching (see it here),partly because this program is so well thought out, and partly because it reminds us how security in the enterprise is much bigger than just technology. It’s people, processes, programs and constant poking and testing of these elements regularly. 

1. Security strategies must be living.

There were a lot of other great security sessions throughout Discover and they can all be watched on-demand. However, one of the best discussions Steve McDowell and I had was with HPE Global Server Security Product Manager Cole Humphreys and InfusionPoints COO Jason Shropshire. The video can be found here, but the theme of the conversation was simple – security must be a design and supply chain principle. In short, the security strategy that fails to evolve is the security strategy that will fail. 

Other thoughts

Just a few more random observations to throw your way:

  • Patrick Moorhead was able to join Steve and me for a wrap-up. Patrick is one of those guys that brings a strong and well-informed opinion to every discussion. Check out his thoughts on what HPE has been doing.
  • Another great chat we had was with Nutanix CMO Mandy Dhaliwal and CCO Tarkan Maner. We covered many topics, including how tight the partnership with HPE has become. Watch that video here.
  • Not a whole lot was mentioned of Pointnext, HPE’s consulting and services arm. I have to say, I think Pointnext is HPE’s secret weapon in this “as-a-Service world.” I especially like what I see from a breadth and depth perspective regarding cybersecurity.

Finally, let me end where I started. HPE Discover 2022 was pretty special. The company has transformed before our eyes, and there is plenty of evidence of it being on a solid trajectory. It’s time to stop thinking of HPE as a server company or a storage company. HPE is an IT solutions and services company, with a strong emphasis on services.

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.