Change. Digital transformation. Disrupt. Eat your own young. These were just some of the terms and phrases uttered at this past week’s HPE Discover event in Las Vegas by HPE executives at all levels of the organization. Yet in the face of the changes that are about to sweep through the technology industry, a technology provider that touches as many organizations around the world as HPE does needs to have more than this type of mindset. It needs to have the products and strategy in place to back it up. Based upon what I saw at HPE Discover last week, HPE is executing upon these requirements.
The changes preparing to take place in the IT infrastructure of organizations of all sizes are probably the most substantial since the advent of distributed computing in the late 80s and early 90s. Then, like now, a new IT architecture was beginning to emerge within IT infrastructures that would fundamentally re-shape how organizations accessed their data and managed their applications.
However this next wave of change, unlike distributed computed which decentralized data, compute, and storage, is more of a hybrid between mainframe and distributed computing. It leverages powerful, mobile edge devices such as phones, tablets, laptops, and PC to capture and visualize data and combines those with powerful, scalable, centralized solutions that manage, store, and analyze the data using resources from both public and private cloud services providers. While this is a bit of a simplified description of this emerging hybrid IT architecture, this definition highlights both the new benefits that it provides to organizations even as it attempts to mitigate or even eliminate the historical drawbacks of both of the architectures upon which it is built.
But as technology providers in general and infrastructure providers in particular compete to bring solutions to market that align with this new hybrid architecture, it puts them in an uncomfortable and even a precarious position. They must sell solutions that may, in some cases, undermine, displace, or even devalue their existing products and solutions with new technologies and solutions that deliver more flexibility, scale and performance at a lower price.
This is both the threat and opportunity that technology providers currently faces and from which HPE is not exempt. Like other providers, it has a full portfolio of IT infrastructure products ranging from its 3PAR StoreServ to StoreOnce to its line of StoreVirtual products. These are minimally under attack and could even be displaced by this new hybrid cloud architecture unless HPE acts smartly, swiftly and with a high degree of precision. To its credit, HPE appears to be executing on all fronts to evolve and adapt its existing product lines to provide the new types of functionality and form factors that organizations are coming to expect and demand. Consider:
- Bundling Docker containers with every server it ships. HPE rightly recognizes Docker containers for the disruptive technology that it is and the pent-up market demand for it. By bundling Docker containers with every server it ships, HPE communicates and demonstrates that applications – not IT infrastructure – is becoming the new driving force in buying decisions.
- Micro Datacenter. While walking around the exhibit floor on the last day of the event, I saw this rack in a box sitting on wheels and wondered, “What in the world in this?” Turns out, it is exactly what it looked like – a micro datacenter for which I could not even find a link to on HPE’s website.
Delivered in a self-contained box, it contains servers, networking, storage, UPS’s, and air conditioning in a sealed box so all organizations literally have to do is roll it onto the floor and turn it on. While not for everyone, anyone who has a remote site that needs lots of compute, storage, and availability and who does not want the headaches of setting it up and managing it, these are a dream come true. The HPE individual on the show floor with whom I spoke said he had taken five orders for these units from mining companies just during the HPE Discover event.
3. Programmable infrastructure. Anyone who has ever managed an IT infrastructure of any size knows that it is not a curse one would wish upon their own worst enemy. Further, mapping LUNs, creating zones, and troubleshooting network protocol issues can make one’s head spin while solving no practical business problems. However, as this new hybrid cloud architecture emerges, this problems are certainly going to decrease and may even pretty much go completely (though it is far too early to make that assumption at this stage.) However, it is safe to say that the infrastructure will become significantly easier to manage opening the door for organizations to programmatically manage it in ways that they have a hard time even envisioning right now. HPE appears to be at the forefront of delivering on these capabilities with its forthcoming Synnergy product that delivers what HPE describes as a “composable infrastructure.” While still in beta, HPE expects a late 2016 release of this product.
Notable in each of these three existing and forthcoming offerings is the decreasing emphasis on the infrastructure components that have typically been the focus of technology companies over the past few years if not the past decade or two. At the end of the day, business owners do not measure success in techno jargon or bits and bytes. They measure it in applications and solutions that lower costs and increase revenue. These solutions announced at HPE Discover seem to illustrate that HPE perhaps grasps this concept better than any time in its recent past.
The forthcoming technology change that is about to sweep though organizations in the years to come is just getting underway and organizations are justifiably concerned about making it. HPE’s willingness to make this level of changes to its own product lines and adopt them internally should provide some reassurance to organizations. The fact that HPE is taking the necessary steps to deliver the next gen architecture that organizations are coming to want and expect even as it exhibits a certain disregard for its own product line should encourage organizations to begin their own transformation knowing that HPE has already gone on before them making the hard choices to transform itself.