Three years from now, every product Hewlett Packard Enterprise sells will be available as a service. That’s the pledge CEO Antonio Neri made from stage Tuesday afternoon during his keynote at the company’s Discover conference in Las Vegas. The pledge covers both hardware and software in the enterprise tech giant’s sprawling portfolio.
Disrupted by public cloud providers like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, market incumbents like HPE, Dell, and IBM have all been looking for ways to bring the experience of using their products closer to the experience of using cloud services. That experience includes not having to sink capital in infrastructure, not spending money to run and maintain it, and paying only for what you use. It also includes a constant stream of new features to select from and frequent upgrades to the latest hardware.
“In the next three years HPE will be a consumption-driven company and everything delivered to you will be delivered as a service,” Neri said. “You choose what you want, where you want it, and only pay for what you consume.”
The company started on this path in 2017, when it launched GreenLake, the overarching brand for HPE’s on-premises solutions offered as a service. Instead of buying a hardware system and the necessary infrastructure management software to support SAP Hana, for example, a customer can have HPE deploy the system in their data center, manage it, and provide it to them as a service, the same way AWS provides its myriad of services, with the key difference being that HPE’s services are running out of the customer’s own facilities, not AWS’s.
According to Neri, the GreenLake business, now serving about 600 customers, has been growing faster than any other HPE business. “We now deliver HPE GreenLake in 56 countries and lead the industry in consumption-based services on-premises,” he said. “This is HPE’s fastest-growing business.”
Dell Technologies, HPE’s biggest rival in the data center market, earlier this year rolled out an as-a-service offering for on-premises hardware, a service operated by its subsidiary VMware. The service is for Dell EMC’s VxRail hyperconverged infrastructure, combined with VMware Cloud Foundation, the software stack through which VMware extends between on-prem environments and its cloud-provider partners.
Expanding HPE GreenLake
The GreenLake portfolio already includes Azure Stack, Microsoft’s software that simulates the experience of using its public cloud on-premises. It also includes solutions like backup, databases, Big Data, and edge computing, among others.
Monday, the day before Discover kicked off, HPE announced a new hybrid cloud partnership with Google Cloud, expanding the GreenLake portfolio. The hybrid cloud will combine HPE’s ProLiant servers and Nimble storage with Anthos, Google’s recently unveiled software platform for running applications in Kubernetes-managed containers on customers’ own hardware running in their own data centers, and in Google’s public cloud. According to Google, customers will also be able to use Anthos to manage their workloads in its competitors’ clouds, such as Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services.
Until recently, GreenLake was only available to large enterprises. On Tuesday, however, the company announced that it’s expanding the business to also target mid-size customers.
To take more friction out of the GreenLake customer experience, companies unable or unwilling to allocate their own data center space for their HPE-as-a-Service solution can turn to one of its two new colocation partners: CyrusOne and Equinix. Besides readily available space, power, and network connectivity at their facilities, large customers get the benefit of private network links to hyperscale cloud platforms if they want to use GreenLake as part of their hybrid-cloud setups.
Also being added to GreenLake is the vast portfolio of network technologies by Aruba, the enterprise mobility specialist HP acquired in 2015. At Discover this week, HPE launched a new Aruba “Network as a Service” offering sold through GreenLake.
New Storage Box With 100 Percent Uptime Guaranteed
Of course, no HPE Discover keynote is complete without a new data center hardware rollout. Neri announced two new pieces of hardware in his talk: a storage box and a compute box.
The storage box, announced together with HPE’s chief sales officer Philip Davis, is called Primera, and it combines hardware by Nimble Storage, a company HPE bought in 2017, with InfoSight, HPE’s machine learning and analytics-heavy infrastructure management software.
In what appears will be a part of all future product announcements by HPE, the company said it will offer Primera as a service, either as a subscription or on a pay-for-what-you-use basis. But customers will have the choice to buy and manage the new storage array on their own.
The company is so confident in the InfoSight machine learning-engine’s ability to stave off infrastructure issues that it’s guaranteeing 100 percent availability for Primera, Davis said. “And it’s standard for everyone,” he added, meaning there aren’t lower-tier Primera offerings that aren’t guaranteed to never go down.
Primera’s designers also aimed to make it the easiest box of its kind to set up. “It delivers a consumer-grade user experience that customers can install and upgrade on their own,” Davis said. “You plug in six cables, make a few clicks, and go from rack to rack in less than 20 minutes.”
Competing storage arrays require extensive planning and room in the budget for expert services, he said. Primera upgrades take less than five minutes, he added, this time taking a direct swipe at Dell EMC by saying he challenged anyone to upgrade a Dell EMC PowerMax storage array in less than five minutes.
HPE said it will start taking orders for Primera this August.
The Machine in a ProLiant Box
According to Neri, the company is already taking orders on the compute box he announced at the show. The box is an HPE ProLiant server with HPE’s moonshot “memory-driven computing” architecture inside.
The company first unveiled the memory-driven concept in 2014, and in 2017 showed a prototype system built around it called The Machine. The idea, basically, is to create a single big pool of memory, with a single address space, interconnected with the CPU using silicon photonics, a technology that relies on light rather than electrons for communication between components in a system.
The Machine HPE showed two years ago was a 40-node cluster with 160 terabytes of memory, all with a single address space. Without sharing much detail, Neri this week promised a ProLiant-based memory-driven development platform that combines CPU, accelerators, and memory, interconnected with a “photonic mesh,” and said the company was “now taking orders” for the box.