A few months ago, HP (sic) held its US Discover conference in Las Vegas; the European version of the same happened early this month….only this time it was HPE that was holding the event. It’s fair to say that the name does not yet roll easily off the tongues of long-established [ex-] HP personnel, but I don’t think it was the new moniker or even the new green rectangle logo that had the interest of attendees at the conference in London’s Docklands. What mattered was whether HPE could bring something to the contemporary party.
Presumably the fact that the main general session was kicked into life by a classical ensemble was intentionally designed to not just wake everyone up, but also to highlight the technical/business centerpiece announcement of the event: HPE’s “Composable Infrastructure”. I cover my thoughts on that and the overall event – as well as talking to Neeraj Gokhale, the new head of product and go-to-market for the storage part of the business – in this ESG On Location video:
After the video, let’s talk language. I love words, and often the more syllables the better (!) – but I am beginning to wonder if sometimes there’s an inverse relationship between the grandeur of descriptive language and the tangible value of the things thus described: HPE talks at the highest level of an “Idea Economy”, and while I get that general concept as a way of describing the innovative and dynamic world we inhabit, it’s not easy to really assign value or action to it. Conversely “composability” can sound rather overblown, and yet the essence of it is tremendously easy to understand, as well as to see how it can deliver both IT and business value. Frankly, although it is now “terminologica-non-grata” at HPE, the old HP/3PAR “polymorphic simplicity” also fitted this semantic theory!
The question, of course, is whether HPE can deliver against its bold new vision, and whether it resonates with the market and fills a need. Keen to have something tangible as its coming-out party, HPE Synergy was the first manifestation of Composable; judging from the customers with whom I spoke there is considerable enthusiasm for Synergy and the approach it represents…..naturally I realize that it tends to be the “choir” in attendance at vendor events such as Discover, but our ESG research (both the quantitative and the anecdotal) shows that making IT less complex, yet more responsive and less expensive (via the optimized use of resources) is bang in line with what’s desired by all but the die-hard lovers of CLIs and vacuum tubes! In other words, HPE may be discovering itself in a pertinent manner and at an opportune moment.
Announcer: The following is an ESG On Location Video.
Mark: This week I'm here at HPE's Discover Conference in Docklands London, this is significantly the first conference for HP, the first Discover Conference since it became HPE, HP Enterprise split into two units. Very important for the company that it establishes a new brand and a new vision. Let's go and find out what that is.
So the really big story here this week is composable. Now HPE, as many of you are probably aware, has these four tenets for the company, which you can see on the screen right now. Composable is the first manifestation of that, not the only, but the first and within that we have the synergy which is the first real product to represent composable and the four tenets that it comes underneath.
Now, what is composable architecture? What is synergy? I think the quick, easy way to understand it is this is not just about fluid hardware or resource pools. Sure, those are part of it, but we've heard of that from other vendors before. This is about fluid IT, fluid apps, if you like. So whether it's physical, virtual, cloud, on premise, old apps, new apps, the idea is it can all be constructed, deconstructed, and used flexibly. That's composability.
So just to come down a little deeper from the high level picture of composability, I grabbed a couple of minutes with Nooraj. Nooraj now heads up product and go to market for the storage side of the business, and I wanted to get his ideas on what he thinks after a couple of months in the job.
Nooraj: I'm excited to be here at HPE at this point in its evolution. If you look at enterprises on a newly formed company which is going to be focusing on the needs of the enterprise fully, and then forming around that. That's a great thing. Storage industry is going through a significant transformation as well. It's no longer about a point solution, it's no longer about a siloed storage technology whether it's system defined, server defined, or software defined, so on and so forth. But it really is about creating a flexible solution that can coexist in multiple deployment forms and, of course, multiples models as well using multiple technologies like flash.
So in some ways I feel that this is almost a new birth of a marketplace happening. A lot of customers are moving that way, whether they are looking at storage as in being managed from the virtualization layer or from the application layer, and so on and so forth. And so I think it is an opportunity to create a storage subsystem that is a first class citizen of an application portfolio, or of the IT portfolio. And I think no other company was better suited than HPE in that aspect because of the birth of not only the storage portfolio we have but also the birth of compute and networking and other capabilities. If we are able to bring it together well. I think we can create a truly different shared solution that, in fact, the customers would want and need going forward.
Mark: So building off what Nooraj said, HPE is really aiming to be, and I think credibly, more than the sum of its parts. That's the point, if you like. In some ways it's odd to hear Peter Ryan, Meg Whitman talk about the fact that now the company has split it's become smaller. It's 210,000 employees, and actually I think that's the point. Sure, maybe it'll get a little more nimble, who knows? That really does not worry me as much as it having the scale in order for it to be able to deliver IT rather than a whole portfolio of parts of IT.
Now, some people may attack this whole composability and synergy because ultimately it means you're gonna deal with one vendor. It's not that HPE doesn't have partners and a choice outside of the company, but at the end of the day you've got to have some scale in order to do that. And frankly, IT has been too much like people buying windshields and engines and seats and really all HPE is talking about here is being able to sell, build, and support a car rather than all the constituent parts.
So the challenge here is going to be a bit like London, the city we're in. It's taking the best of the new, building new infrastructure, at the same time keeping the best of the old. It's that mix that's going to be the challenge for the company to do, but certainly composability seems to be a credible beginning and a grand vision that a company of this scale could really deliver against.
And finally, I want to come back to something that Meg actually said in her opening keynote, which I think is very pertinent. Probably the biggest thing that HPE has going for it is its customer relationships. Not just the scale, the number of those relationships but the commitment many of those customers, companies, organizations have for the success of HPE.