Business · CIO · Cloud · Data

Is HPE headed toward extinction?

The first question might be, why does a CIO care if any one vendor comes or goes? It matters if you are invested in that company’s products or services. The vast majority of enterprises have invested in a number of enterprise companies…including HP Enterprise (HPE). Many are asking where HPE is headed and how long customers can rely on that relationship and investment?

In order to answer that question, one has to break down the problem a bit. In the beginning, we had one Hewlett Packard.

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HP SPLITS IN TWO

On October 6, 2014, HP (NYSE: HPQ) announced that it would split into two new publicly traded Fortune 50 companies. The two companies would split down the lines of consumer products and enterprise solutions. The former being called HP Inc. and the latter being called HP Enterprise. A year later, on November 1, 2015, the split officially took effect.

My take is that the split is a good thing for both HP/ HPE and customers. It allows each of the two companies to focus on their respective strengths and markets. The consumer market is much different from the enterprise market.

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HPE CONTINUES TO REDUCE PORTFOLIO

Since the split in 2015, HPE has been busy reducing the size of their portfolio. There were four core pieces to HPE’s business: Cloud, Services, Software and Infrastructure.

One of the first things to go was HPE’s Helion Cloud business. The mystery here is that cloud is one of the largest opportunities for any of the legacy IT vendors, including HPE. As customers make the move from traditional corporate data center infrastructure to cloud-based solutions, existing providers need to consider this loss of revenue. Cloud presents one of the largest opportunities for customers and HPE could have leveraged their large based of existing customers. So, why would HPE move away from building up this business as part of its future strategy?

Unfortunately, While HPE’s foray with a cloud offering had the opportunity to carry HPE into the future, they struggled to find their footing with customers. In the end, the twists and turns for HPE offering a cloud offering were futile and they shuttered the Helion offering.

There is still a component of HPE’s cloud business that is hanging on called Cloud System. However, it is part of infrastructure and requires a Technical Services engagement as part of the purchase. In sum, this is a rather small part of HPE’s business and the requirement

The second step was spinning off HPE’s Services business to CSC May 2016. While HPE & CSC called the transaction a merger, it was widely seen in the industry as a spinout from HPE to CSC. The move aligned HPE’s Services business with an existing large services vendor.

The third step was spinning off HPE’s Software business to Micro Focus in September 2016. Again, the transaction was billed as a “merger”, however, it is also seen as a spinout from HPE to Micro Focus. The interesting thing about this transaction was that it included one of the gems in HPE’s business. It included their big data and analytics business.

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Taking away HPE’s Cloud, Services and Software businesses, the only thing that is left is their core infrastructure business. Aside from their continued innovation in servers and storage, their Synergy platform potentially provided HPE a longer term future in the infrastructure business.

Enterprise customers are moving away from owning traditional corporate data center assets in droves. This includes traditional server and storage infrastructure. Out with the old and in with the new. HPE’s Synergy platform potentially provides HPE an interesting bridge for those enterprise customers looking to leverage infrastructure investments as they leverage new architectures and development routines on their way to cloud.

I say potentially because HPE’s infrastructure business is hindered by a number of factors. First, enterprises are moving away from traditional infrastructure toward cloud. And future state solutions including cloud and big data are now gone from the HPE portfolio. In addition, HPE continues to struggle with the traditional way of thinking. And this traditional thinking is not going to resonate with customers looking to change things up demonstrably. There is still potential for HPE’s infrastructure business, but only if they make significant shifts in thinking, strategy and leadership. That being said, the window of opportunity for HPE infrastructure is limited.

IS THE LONG TERM STRATEGY FOR HPE EXTINCTION?

Here’s the kicker: By closing down their Cloud business and selling their big data and analytics business, HPE essentially removed their long term future. On the surface that would be suspect until you think about the end-game.

Looking at the path HPE has taken over the past two years and what is left, there is a glaring conclusion that HPE’s strategy all along was focused on breaking up the company and selling off the assets. Many of us suspected this was the case right out of the gate. With the activities just in the past six short months, it is clear that HPE’s destiny is extinction.

The irony in all of this? Once the end-state for HPE infrastructure is determined, there will be only one “HP” left: HP Inc.

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.

Business · CIO

HP’s composable story addresses the evolving enterprise

Last week, HP Enterprise (HPE) pulled together a number of influencers from around North America for a unique event. Unlike most events that talk about specific products or announcements, this event was quite different. This event dug into HPE’s direction around ‘composable’ infrastructure and how it addresses the needs of the evolving enterprise organization.

WHAT IS COMPOSABLE

We have heard about composable concepts for some time. HPE’s approach is to apply the composable concept to that of infrastructure by assembling compute, storage and networking resources for the benefit of a given set of applications. An application, via HPE’s Application Program Interface (API) is able to pull together resources as needed. When they are no longer required, the resources go back into the ‘resource pools’.

Now some may scoff at the notion and suggest this is nothing new. They would be right except for one little twist that makes a big difference. HPE’s approach addresses the broader needs of the enterprise and disparate applications…using a single infrastructure solution.

SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE

HPE’s Project Synergy was announced at HP Discover in Las Vegas in June and the approach is fairly straightforward. A single infrastructure stack that addresses the needs for all types of applications. That does not mean a separate stack for legacy applications from the stack that supports newer applications. It means that there is a single infrastructure stack that supports all types of applications…on the same stack.

The resources (compute, storage, network) sit in resource pools within the stack. As an application spins up, it addresses the API at which point the resources are composed for that application. When the resources are no longer needed, they return to their respective resource pools ready for the next application. As an example, resources might be used for a legacy application one minute, return to the pool and then recomposed for a new style of application only to return to the pool and be used for yet another application.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE ENTERPRISE

By using a single infrastructure stack for all types of applications, customers are no longer worried about stranded resources as applications move from legacy to newer architectures. Resources are immediately available for repurpose via the resource pools.

Historically, enterprises faced a myriad of infrastructure stacks to support the varied application styles. As we see applications leverage new styles of architectures, the number of potential stacks under the traditional approach leads to increased complexity. By sharing resources through application pools and composability, it allows enterprises to focus less on infrastructure and focus further up in the application stack which is closer to the true business engagement.

Business · CIO · Cloud · Data

Are the big 5 enterprise IT providers making a comeback?

Not long ago, many would have written off the likes of the big five large enterprise IT firms as slow, lethargic, expensive and out of touch. Who are the big five? IBM (NYSE: IBM), HP (NYSE: HPQ), Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), Oracle (NYSE: ORCL) and Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO). Specifically, they are companies that provide traditional enterprise IT software, hardware and services.

Today, most of the technology innovation is coming from startups, not the large enterprise providers. Over the course of 2015, we have seen two trends pick up momentum: 1) Consolidation in the major categories (software, hardware, and services) and 2) Acquisitions by the big five. Each of them are making huge strides in different ways.

Here’s a quick rundown of the big five.

IBM guns for the developer

Knowing that the developer is the start of the development process, IBM is shifting gears toward solutions that address the new developer. Just look at the past 18 months alone.

  • February 2014: Dev@Pulse conference showed a mix of Cobol developers alongside promotion of Bluemix. The attendees didn’t resemble your typical developer conference. More details here.
  • April 2014: Impact conference celebrated 50 years of the mainframe. Impact also highlighted the SoftLayer acquisition and brought the integration of mobile and cloud.
  • October 2014: Insight conference goes further to bring cloud, data and Bluemix into the fold.
  • February 2015: InterConnect combines a couple of previous conferences into one. IBM continues the drive with cloud, SoftLayer and Bluemix while adding their Open Source contributions specifically around OpenStack.

SoftLayer (cloud), Watson (analytics) and Bluemix are strengths in the IBM portfolio. And now with IBM’s recent acquisition of BlueBox and partnership with Box, it doesn’t appear they are letting up on the gas. Add their work with Open Source software and it creates an interesting mix.

There are still significant gaps for IBM to fill. However, the message from IBM supports their strengths in cloud, analytics and the developer. This is key for the enterprise both today and tomorrow.

HP’s cloudy outlook

HP has long had a diverse portfolio that addresses the needs of the enterprise today and into the future. Of all big five providers, HP has one of the best matched to the enterprise needs today and in the future.

  • Infrastructure: HP’s portfolio of converged infrastructure and components is solid. Really solid. Much of it is geared for the traditional enterprise. One curious point is that their server components span the enterprise and service provider market. However, their storage products are squarely targeting the enterprise to the omission of the service providers. You can read more here.
  • Software: I have long since felt that HP’s software group has a good bead on the industry trends. They have a strong portfolio of data analytics tools with Vertica, Autonomy and HAVEn (being rebranded). HP’s march to support the Idea Economy is backed up by the solutions they’re putting in place. You can read more here.
  • Cloud: I have said that HP’s cloud strategy is an enigma. Unfortunately, discussions with the HP Cloud team at Discover this month further cemented that perspective. There is quite a bit of hard work being done by the Helion team, but the results are less clear. HP’s cloud strategy is directly tied to OpenStack and their contributions to the projects support this move.

HP will need to move beyond operating in silos and support a more integrated approach that mirrors the needs of their customers. While HP Infrastructure and Software are humming along, Helion cloud will need a renewed focus to gain relevance and mass adoption.

Microsoft’s race to lose

Above all other players, Microsoft still has the broadest and deepest relationships across the enterprise market today. Granted, much of those relationships are built upon their productivity apps, desktop and server operating systems, and core applications (Exchange, SQL, etc). There is no denying that Microsoft probably has relationships with more organizations than any of the others.

Since Microsoft Office 365 hit its stride, enterprises are starting to take a second look at Azure and Microsoft’s cloud-based offerings. This still leaves a number of gaps for Microsoft; specifically around data analytics and open standards. Moving to open standards will require a significant cultural shift for Microsoft. Data analytics could come through the acquisition of a strong player in the space.

Oracle’s comprehensive cloud

Oracle has long been seen as a strong player in the enterprise space. Unlike many other players that provide the building blocks to support enterprise applications, Oracle provides the blocks and the business applications.

One of Oracle’s key challenges is that the solutions are heavy and costly. As enterprises move to a consumption-based model by leveraging cloud, Oracle found itself flat-footed. Over the past year or so, Oracle has worked to change that position with their cloud-based offerings.

On Monday, Executive Chairman, CTO and Founder Larry Ellison presented Oracle’s latest update in their race for the enterprise cloud business. Oracle is now providing the cloud building blocks from top to bottom (SaaS PaaS IaaS). The message is strong: Oracle is out to support both the developer and business user through their transformation.

Oracle’s strong message to go after the entire cloud stack should not go unnoticed. In Q4 alone, Oracle cloud cleared $426M. That is a massive number. Even if they did a poor job of delivering solutions, one cannot deny the sheer girth of opportunity that overshadows others.

Cisco’s shift to software

Cisco has long since been the darling of the IT infrastructure and operations world. Their challenge has been to create a separation between hardware and software while advancing their position beyond the infrastructure realms.

In general, networking technology is one of the least advanced areas when compared with advances in compute and storage infrastructure. As cloud and speed become the new mantra, the emphasis on networking becomes more important than ever.

As the industry moves to integrate both infrastructure and developers, Cisco will need to make a similar shift. Their work in SDN with ACI and around thought-leadership pieces is making significant inroads with enterprises.

Summing it all up

Each is approaching the problem in their own ways with varying degrees of success. The bottom line is that each of them is making significant strides to remain relevant and support tomorrow’s enterprise. Equally important is how quickly they’re making the shift.

If you’re a startup, you will want to take note. No longer are these folks in your dust. But they are your potential exit strategy.

It will be interesting to watch how each evolves over the next 6-12 months. Yes, that is a very short timeframe, but echoes the speed in which the industry is evolving.

Business · Data

HP Discover Executive Storage Discussion

HP kicked off their coffee talk series with executives from the HP Storage group. Manish Goel is the new SVP & GM of HP Storage replacing David Scott. While Manish has only been with HP two months, he has a firm grasp on where the HP Storage group is headed. Manish was formerly with NetApp and understands the shifts in the storage marketplace today.

One of the core premises from the HP Storage group is to drive the cost of storage down; specifically in the flash category. HP is still sticking with both 3PAR and StoreVirtual strategies. Both solutions are squarely geared toward the enterprise market with a myriad of models to suit the varied requirements.

In addition, HP’s approach is to address the storage framework with three tiers:

  1. Infrastructure and Hardware: These are the core building blocks.
  2. Infrastructure Technology: Backup and other core storage services.
  3. Storage Management: This is where HP OneView comes in to provide a single pane of glass view across storage.

Flash is a hot topic in the storage communities. HP’s objective is to lower the cost of all-flash arrays. One statistic supporting this move is: 1 out of every 3 arrays that HP ships are all-flash arrays. But will flash continue the march down the cost path and eventually replace tape? Doubtful in the near-term. Many of the cost comparisons take place between flash storage and conventional spindles.

When asked about HP’s strategy to provide storage solutions to the service provider market, the conversation changes a bit. It’s clear that HP is focused on the on-premises enterprise market. Storage support for the service provider market will come via the HP Helion Cloud solutions.

On the subject of data services, the storage team is fully engaged with OpenStack, REST APIs and data integration. This is one area to watch as HP Storage moves forward strategically.

CIO · Cloud · Data

What to watch for at HP Discover this week

This week marks HP’s annual Discover conference in Las Vegas. HP has come a long way in the past couple of years and this year should prove interesting in a number of ways. Here is a list of items to watch in the coming couple of days:

Announcements: There are a couple of significant announcements planned this week. While the announcement itself is interesting, the long term impact should prove a more interesting opportunity for HP’s strategy post-split. Watch the keynotes for more details Tuesday and Wednesday.

Split Update: News about the HP split into two companies is not new. Look for more details on the progress of the split and what it means for each of the two entities. On the surface and through a number of ‘hallway conversations’ I’ve had, it seems that the split is bringing greater focus to the enterprise teams. This is good for HP and for customers.

Software: The HP Software team is a large and diverse bunch. The areas I’m particularly interested in are the progress around HAVEn, Vertica and Autonomy. Initial conversations point to some really interesting progress for customers. As BigData, Analytics and data (in general) become front-and-center for organizations, look for this area to explode. We have only scratched the surface with more opportunities abound. I’m looking at ways HP is educating customers on the value opportunities in a way they can consume. While there are themes, we are moving to a ‘market of one‘.

Cloud: The HP Helion Cloud has a number of things happening at the conference. I’m particularly interested in the progress they’ve made around commercial offerings of OpenStack and private cloud. Overall, cloud adoption is still very anemic (not just for HP). I’m looking for ways HP is creating the onramps to cloud to reduce apprehension and increase adoption rates. Many of the challenges span greater than the technology itself. Look for ways HP is engaging customers in new and different ways. In addition, watch for changes in how the solutions are shifting from supporting enterprises directly to supporting service providers. Bridging the gap here is key and the needs are very different.

Infrastructure: Many enterprise customers still maintain a large infrastructure presence. Even if their strategy is to shift toward a cloud-first methodology, there are reasons to support internal infrastructure. Look for ways HP is evolving their infrastructure offerings to support today’s enterprise along with its evolution to a cloud-first model. As the sophistication of data increases, so will storage solutions to meet the ever-changing requirements. Similarly, the complexity from networking that solutions like Software Defined Networking (SDN) address will be interesting to watch for.

Wild Cards: There are a number of wild cards to watch for as well. The first is DevOps. DevOps is critical to today’s IT organization and moving forward. It applies differently to different orgs. Watch for the subject addressed in Keynotes. The second wild card is an update from HP Labs. HP Labs has a number of really interesting…and innovative solutions in the works. Look for an update on where things stand and how HP sees innovation changing.

Finally, I have a number of video interviews scheduled over the next couple of days where I dive deeper into each of these areas. Plus, will cover an update on the state of the CIO. Look for links to those either using the #HPDiscover hashtag or on the blog after the show.

As always, feel free to comment and join the conversation on Twitter. The hashtag to follow is: #HPDiscover