HPE delivered a clear message about the kind of company it wants to be and the direction it wants to go at its Discover 2017 conference this June. Meg Whitman and her team are betting big on on-premises infrastructure and edge computing.
But those bets will only pay off if this hardware company can also create great software.
Here’s my take on one part of HPE’s strategic direction after attending Discover as an invited blogger.*
While HPE has been a standalone company for about 20 months, Discover 2017 to me felt like its coming-out party. The event was a direct and public effort to establish HPE’s identity in the broader tech market.
Since it was spun out as a separate company, HPE has focused on internal reorganization, the divestment of legacy businesses, and new acquisitions. All of those efforts were necessary, but they also kicked up clouds of dust that obscured HPE’s long-term strategy.
Now much of that dust has settled, and HPE has identified a strategy that revolves around three key objectives:
- Simplify hybrid IT
- Power the intelligent edge
- Offer consulting and services to customers
We can debate whether HPE has picked the right objectives and how well it’s executing against them, but at least HPE can say ‘This is the kind of company we are, and this is the direction we’re headed.’
This kind of high-level messaging may not hold much interest for technologists and engineers, but I think a clearly-stated identity is necessary internally because it serves as an organizing principle around which to rally employees and steer executives.
Externally, it provides a gauge (albeit a rough one) against which customers, analysts, and Wall Street can measure HPE.
With the high-level messaging established, let’s explore the hybrid IT piece a little more deeply.
What Do You Mean By Hybrid?
Meg Whitman and every other executive that the bloggers heard from at Discover 2017 was on-message regarding HPE’s objectives, including hybrid IT.
Hybrid IT acknowledges that enterprise IT is split between on-prem infrastructure and cloud services. Workloads will run in one or the other environment (and perhaps even span or migrate between them), and it’s up to IT to monitor, manage, and support those workloads.
While HPE acknowledges the dominance of the public cloud, it’s also betting on a resurgence of on-premises infrastructure and private clouds. That’s because HPE says it hears customer concerns about the cost, performance, and security of cloud services, and that some customers want more “control.” HPE is betting these customers will invest in new infrastructure technology in their own data centers to address said concerns.
Whether this is an accurate prediction remains to be seen, but it certainly aligns with HPE’s product portfolio (no surprise there).
This portfolio includes the recently acquired SimpliVity HCI systems and 3Par all-flash arrays, as well as HPE’s Synergy line, which lets customers mix and match VMs, containers, and bare metal deployments on the same box.
While HPE has lots of different boxes to sell, it has to get the software right, particularly if it’s going to meet its stated objective of simplifying hybrid IT.
How will it do that? One effort is Project New Stack. This is still a work in progress, and I’m still trying to wrap my head around just what it’s supposed to be, but from what I can tell so far, Project New Stack is a software platform with a few key features:
—Let developers and lines of business access private cloud resources via a service catalog
—Serve as a front end to public cloud services
—“Curate” on-premises tools and orchestration software (for example, containers, Kubernetes, OpenStack, etc.) for IT operations and developers
—Provide dashboard views of private and public cloud resource consumption, costs, health, and performance
If I’m understanding Project New Stack right, one goal to seems to be to ensure that products such as SimpliVity and Synergy don’t just become their own isolated silos within the data center, but instead can become “nodes” within a larger pool of resources.
It also looks like it aims to provide linkages between the enterprise premises infrastructure and public clouds, particularly around resource and usage monitoring.
Just how all that will come together and be delivered remains to be seen. Beta customers are supposed to get access in the fall of 2017, so I hope to get more technical details over the coming months.
Other pieces of HPE’s software puzzle include OneView, HPE’s automation software for on-premises infrastructure; and Niara, a security startup acquired by HPE that applies machine learning to security logs and other information to detect anomalies. HPE execs mentioned Niara in numerous conversations, so I’m anticipating that they’ll want to extend its analytics capability beyond the security realm.
We know HPE can build hardware. The company sells billions of dollars of servers, storage arrays, and converged systems. But if it really wants to meet its goals of simplifying hybrid IT for customers, it’s going to have to be excellent at developing the right software.
*Disclaimer: HPE paid for my travel, accommodations, and meals at HPE Discover 2017 as an invited blogger.