As you know I was invited at HPE Discover in November 2016 and at the time my vision of things for HPE wasn’t exactly idyllic. Yes, the innovations in the 3PAR line were great, but there was nothing unique going on. The Machine, a great scientific project, looked to me like a solution in search of a problem to solve. The highlight of the show was for me the seemingly unappealing but truly cool HPE CloudLine CL5200 storage-dense server, about which I wrote here.
Some light after a long night?
Resuming HPE Discover, the outlooks for HPE in terms of innovation in the storage field looked quite grim, unless they would gobble a competitor, especially in the hyper-converged market.
Then it happened – rumours stating that HPE was in discussions with
Pied Piper SimpliVity turned into reality, and HPE acquired them at a bargain (deduplicated) price. This effectively added a mature hyper-converged solution (and one of the HCI market founders) to their portfolio, which is likely to target the Enterprise market, while HPE’s own Hyper-Converged StoreVirtual system might be relegated to serving ROBO and SMB use cases.
While we can only speculate about SimpliVity’s future from a technological and product perspective (for people, the axe of post-acquisition layoffs is in full swing unfortunately), it seems that the HPE CS250 and DL380 platforms might form the core of their offering going forward, even if their website still lists the OmniCube OEM platform, UCS, Lenovo and DELL.
I would also expect SimpliVity to ditch the hardware ASIC used for deduplication at some point in time and move to a software-based solution that will leverage x86 firepower to run their dedupe operations, allowing them to cut costs on HW development and with the ancillary outcome that it will shut down competitor’s arguments about the « disadvantage » of using a custom HW component that « creates lock-in ». What effectively constitutes lock-in is a vast topic that will not be discussed here.
HPE – Hidden Participations Everywhere
What surprised me much more however was to find out, while writing on Scality, that HPE is an investor in Scality through Hewlett Packard Pathfinder, the Palo Alto based HPE investment arm that finances startups. And while digging more, I found out that they participated yesterday (2-Mar-17) to the Series C investment round into Hedvig Inc., an innovative software-defined storage about which I’ve written twice (here and here).
At this point, I started looking at HPE differently and digged more. They seem to have a consistent strategy to invest into strategic areas, such as object storage (Scality), software-defined storage (Hedvig, Coho Data), but also containers (Mesosphere), orchestration (Chef) and much, much more.
The question remains about what HPE will plan to do with these investments. Will they acquire the companies and incorporate the products? Will they work through joint ventures? HPE currently re-sells Scality products for example. Will they do the same with other products? Will HPE offer consulting services for Mesosphere implementations or to implement automation with Chef?
Digging down into HPE investments surprised me in a positive way. At HPE discover, I was looking for an answer to the question I was asking myself about how relevant will HPE be in the data centre industry five years from now if they were to continue on the lacklustre pace they had seem to set (divestments and seeming lack of innovation). The announcements made by CEO Meg Whitman during the keynote seemed encouraging but folks who attend keynotes on a regular basis know that there is always a long way between announcements and reality. Untangling the webs of HPE startup investment strategy shows that’s there is probably more than just keynote buzz.
Is HPE fomenting a silent revolution in their offerings & strategy while they keep masquerading with the regular hardware commodity stuff we’ve been seeing for the last two decades? While the innovation is not coming from HPE directly, their investment arm, Hewlett Packard Pathfinder, seems to have very sharp people on board.
HPE is investing into a rich next generation ecosystem that covers a large spectrum of technologies and solutions. But to be successful, HPE needs to move from being one of many unappealing hardware vendors and embrace a world where hardware is mere commodity and where added value is found in software, services and implementation. The question remains about how HPE will incorporate these into its partnerships, offerings, and if it decides to move beyond investment and into eventual acquisition. And how they will be able to execute on the strategy and vision laid out in November by CEO Meg Withman.