Business · CIO · Cloud · Data

HPE clarifies their new role in the enterprise

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Last week, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) held their annual US-based Discover conference in Las Vegas. HPE has seen quite a bit of change in the past year with the split of HP into HPE & HP Inc. They shut down their Helion Public Cloud offering and announced the divestiture of their Enterprise Services (ES) business to merge with CSC into a $26B business. With all of the changes and 10,000 people in attendance, HPE sought to clarify their strategy and position in the enterprise market.

WHAT IS IN AND WHAT IS OUT?

Many of the questions attendees were asking circled around the direction HPE was taking considering all of the changes just in the past year alone. Two of the core changes (shutting down Helion Public Cloud and splitting off their ES business) have raised many eyebrows wondering if HPE might be cutting off their future potential.

While HPE telegraphs that their strategy is to support customers with their ‘digital transformation’ journey, the statement might be a bit overreaching. That is not to say that HPE is not capable of providing value to enterprises. It is to say that there are specific aspects that they do provide value and yet a few significant gaps. We are talking about a traditional hardware-focused company shifting more and more toward software. Not a trivial task.

There are four pillars that support the core HPE offering for enterprises. Those include Infrastructure, Analytics, Cloud and Software.

INFRASTRUCTURE AT THE CORE

HPE’s strength continues to rest on their ability to innovate in the infrastructure space. I wrote about their Moonshot and CloudSystem offerings three years ago here. Last year, HPE introduced their Synergy technology that supports composability. Synergy, and the composable concept, is one of the best opportunities to address the evolving enterprise’s changing demands. I delve a bit deeper into the HPE composable opportunity here.

Yet, one thing is becoming painfully clear within the industry. The level of complexity for infrastructure is growing exponentially. For any provider to survive, there needs to be a demonstrable shift toward leveraging software that manages the increasingly complex infrastructure. HPE is heading in that direction with their OneView platform.

Not to be outdone in supporting the ever-changing software platform space, HPE also announced that servers will come ready to support Docker containers. This is another example of where HPE is trying to bridge the gap between traditional infrastructure and newer application architectures including cloud.

CLOUD GOES PRIVATE

Speaking of cloud, there is quite a bit of confusion where cloud fits in the HPE portfolio of solutions. After a number of conversations with members of the HPE team, their solutions are focused on one aspect of cloud: Private Cloud. This makes sense considering HPE’s challenges to reach escape velocity with their Helion Public Cloud offering and core infrastructure background. Keep in mind that HPE’s private cloud solutions are heavily based on OpenStack. This will present a challenge for those considering a move from their legacy VMware footprint. But does open the door to new application architectures that are specifically looking for an OpenStack-based Private Cloud. However, there is already competition in this space from companies like IBM (BlueBox) and Microsoft (AzureStack). And unlike HPE, both IBM & Microsoft have established Public Cloud offerings that complement their Private Cloud solutions (BlueBox & Azure respectively).

One aspect in many of the discussions was how HPE’s Technical Services (TS) are heavily involved in HPE Cloud deployments. At first, this may present a red flag for many enterprises concerned with the level of consulting services required to deploy a solution. However, when considering that the underpinnings are OpenStack-based, it makes more sense. OpenStack, unlike traditional commercial software offerings, still requires a significant amount of support to get it up and running. This could present a challenge to broad appeal of HPE’s cloud solutions except for those few that understand, and can justify, the value proposition.

It does seem that HPE’s cloud business is still in a state of flux and finding the best path to take. With the jettison of Helion Public Cloud and HPE’s support of composability, there is a great opportunity to appeal to the masses and leverage their partnership with Microsoft to support Azure & AzureStack on a Synergy composable stack. Yet, the current focus appears to still focus on OpenStack based solutions. Note: HPE CloudSystem does support Synergy via the OneView APIs.

SOFTWARE

At the conference, HPE highlighted their security solutions with a few statistics. According to HPE, they “secure nine of the top 10 software companies, all 10 telcos and all major branches of the US Department of Defense (DoD).” While those are interesting statistics, one should delve a bit further to determine how extensive this applies.

Security sits alongside the software group’s Application Lifecycle Management (ALM), Operations and BigData software solutions. As time goes on, I would hope to see HPE mature the significance of their software business to meet the changing demands from enterprises.

THE GROWTH OF ANALYTICS

Increasingly, enterprise organizations are growing their dependence on data. A couple of years back, HP (prior to the HPE/ HP Inc split) purchased Autonomy and Vertica. HPE continues to mature their combined Haven solution beyond addressing BigData into the realm of Machine Learning. That that end, HPE now is offering Haven On-Demand (http://www.HavenOnDemand.com) for free. Interestingly, the solution leverages HPE’s partnership with Microsoft and is running on Microsoft’s Azure platform.

IN SUMMARY

HPE is bringing into focus those aspects they believe they can do well. The core business is still focused on infrastructure, but also supporting software (mostly for IT focused functions), cloud (OpenStack focused) and data analytics. After the dust settles on the splits and shifts, the largest opportunities for HPE appear to come from infrastructure (and related software), and data analytics. The other aspects of the business, while valuable, support a smaller pool of prospective customers.

Ultimately, time will tell how this strategy plays out. I still believe there is an untapped potential from HPE’s Synergy composable platform that will appeal to the masses of enterprises, but is often missed. Their data analytics strategy appears to be gaining steam and moving forward. These two offerings are significant, but only provide for specific aspects in an enterprises digital transformation.

Cloud

Containers in the Enterprise

Containers are all the rage right now, but are they ready for enterprise consumption? It depends on whom you ask, but here’s my take. Enterprises should absolutely be considering container architectures as part of their strategy…but there are some considerations before heading down the path.

Container conferences

Talking with attendees at Docker’s DockerCon conference and Redhat’s Summit this week, you hear a number of proponents and live enterprise users. For those that are not familiar with containers, the fundamental concept is a fully encapsulated environment that supports application services. Containers should not be confused with virtualization. In addition, containers are not to be confused with Micro Services, which can leverage containers, but do not require them.

A quick rundown

Here are some quick points:

  • Ecosystem: I’ve written before about the importance of a new technology’s ecosystem here. In the case of containers, the ecosystem is rich and building quickly.
  • Architecture: Containers allow applications to break apart into smaller components. Each of the components can then spin up/ down and scale as needed. Of course automation and orchestration comes into play.
  • Automation/ Orchestration: Unlike typical enterprise applications that are installed once and run 24×7, the best architectures for containers spin up/ down and scale as needed. Realistically, the only way to efficiently do this is with automation and orchestration.
  • Security: There is quite a bit of concern about container security. With potentially thousands or tens of thousands of containers running, a compromise might have significant consequences. If containers are architected to be ephemeral, the risk footprint shrinks exponentially.
  • DevOps: Container-based architectures can run without a DevOps approach with limited success. DevOps brings a different methodology that works hand-in-hand with containers.
  • Management: There are concerns the short lifespan of a container creates challenges for audit trails. Using traditional audit approaches, this would be true. Using newer methods provides real-time audit capability.
  • Stability: The $64k question: Are containers stable enough for enterprise use? Absolutely! The reality is that legacy architecture applications would not move directly to containers. Only those applications that are significantly modified or re-written would leverage containers. New applications are able to leverage containers without increasing the risk.

Cloud-First, Container-First

Companies are looking to move faster and faster. In order to do so, the problem needs reduction into smaller components. As those smaller components become micro services (vs. large monolithic applications), containers start to make sense.

Containers represent an elegant way to leverage smaller building blocks. Some have equated containers to the Lego building blocks of the enterprise application architecture. The days of large, monolithic enterprise applications are past. Today’s applications may be complex in sum, but are a culmination of much smaller building blocks. These smaller blocks provide the nimble and fast speed that enterprises are clamoring for today.

Containers are more than Technology

More than containers, there are other components needed for success. Containers represent the technology building blocks. Culture and process are needed to support the change in technology. DevOps provides the fluid that lubricates the integration of the three components.

Changing the perspective

As with the newer technologies coming, other aspects of the IT organization must change too. Whether you are a CIO, IT leader, developer or operations team, the very fundamentals in which we function must change in order to truly embrace and adopt these newer methodologies.

Containers are ready for the enterprise…if the other aspects are considered as well.