Thursday, September 15, 2016

Changes for the better? HPE to focus on what it does best; infrastructure and platforms!

Hard to miss reading one article or another on what is taking place within HPE and for the NonStop community, questions were being asked. NonStop had become the best software platform on the planet – was it being sold, too? The answer is no, it isn’t!

Fortune smiled on me rather gently this week. I returned to the local motorcycle shop to pick up my cruiser. A considerable amount of work had been done on it after it’s been sitting in our garage for more than two years, unused and somewhat unloved. However, it’s amazing what care and attention can do for an old-world cruiser but as I pulled into the shop, it began to rain. I haven’t been on a motorcycle for all of those two plus years, so looking as the clouds gathered and the raindrops grew heavier, I was a little concerned. Fortunately, getting back on the motorcycle revived past memories and no, you never forget how to ride a bike. You just have to get back into the saddle.

I have to believe that at HPE much the same concerns passed through the minds of its executives. It wasn’t so much the rain that was a concern as it was the clouds gathering on the horizon. And I am not posting about the clouds that cross our skies but rather, the growing presence of clouds in enterprise data centers. When it comes to clouds, just like those we see in the sky (many times taking on the shape of familiar objects), oftentimes all we appreciate is how fluffy they look and how soft they seem to be – software-defined everything is becoming the response from enterprises as they too contemplate the new IT order made up of constantly morphing pools of resources.  To HPE, all the recent investments in products and human resources that aren’t directly reusable in the cloud computing marketplace looked increasingly like they were addressing legacy requirements. They might be good cash cows in the short term but HPE wasn’t about to take a back seat and simply milk the past. HPE recognizes the need to tap the momentum developing around clouds and to ride that momentum well into the future. And so they have acted, and acted rather dramatically!

I suspect that by now you have all read the announcements from HPE this week. Yes, apparently the die has been cast and HPE is now out of the services business and out of the software business. Looking back over the past couple of months, even with all the rumors that circulated widely, it’s all happened pretty quickly. But what does it really mean for the NonStop community? After taking a lot of pride in cementing the role of NonStop as the best software platform on the planet, has that only led to an increased vulnerability for NonStop?

Before addressing these questions, it’s a good idea to take a closer look at what HPE is telling the industry. With the news breaking of the spin-merge of HPE Software with Micro Focus, HPE published the news release late September 7, 2016, CEO Meg Whitman on HPE’s Plans to Spin-Off & Merge Non-Core Software Assets With Micro Focus -Company doubles down on delivering software-defined hybrid IT solutions. In that news release was the explanation from Meg Whitman, HPE CEO, that, “When we launched the new HPE, we laid out a vision of being the industry's leading provider of hybrid IT, built on the secure, next-generation, software-defined infrastructure that will run customers' data centers today, bridge them to multi-cloud environments tomorrow, and enable the emerging intelligent edge that will power campus, branch and IoT applications for decades to come.” 

Explaining this further, Ric Lewis, senior vice president for the software-defined and cloud group at HPE, told Infoworld in the article that followed the September 8, 2016, announcement of the pending sale of HPE Software to Micro Focus, What's left at HPE is focused squarely on the hybrid and private cloud “To achieve this vision, we've been busy realigning our portfolio and product roadmap with our go-forward strategy. In just the last few months, we announced enhancements and new products across storage, infrastructure, converged systems, cloud and a truly differentiated set of edge compute products for the Internet of Things." Furthermore, added Lewis, “The whole world is talking about the public cloud growing, but not that many people are noticing that the private cloud is growing at double-digit rates as well. That's a huge opportunity for us.”

As Whitman explained the moves behind the realignment, she reiterated that, “Today's announced spin-merge of our non-core software assets with Micro Focus is another important step in our strategy to unlock a faster growing, higher margin, stronger cash flow company. As we said in the Enterprise Services announcement last quarter, both software and services remain key enablers of our go-forward strategy, and we are focused on building the right portfolio to win in our target markets. We believe the portfolio changes we've made over the past year are setting up HPE for long-term success while unlocking tremendous value for our shareholders." 

HPE has also unveiled a new look organization now that the company has become just a combination of the Enterprise Group and the Finance Group. As the article in InfoWorld noted, “‘HPE's strategy for the future is to focus on hybrid IT,’ said Ric Lewis, senior vice president for the software-defined and cloud group at HPE. Accordingly, it recently formed three core business groups within HPE's Enterprise Group division: one focusing on software-defined and cloud technologies, one focused on data centre infrastructure, and one focused on edge technologies and the internet of things. It is retaining the software efforts that are central to its hybrid IT focus, Lewis said in his interview with InfoWorld, including the CloudSystem brand, HPE OneView, Helion OpenStack, and its software-defined storage and networking products.”

Retaining software central to its hybrid IT focus is an important consideration. NonStop is now playing an active role when it comes to the ongoing transformation to hybrid infrastructures integrating traditional IT with private clouds and products have already begun to ship that make it easier for enterprise customers to capitalize on the benefits that come with private clouds. But again, what of NonStop and its current organization, Mission Critical Systems? According to Randy Meyer, Vice President & General Manager, Mission Critical Systems (MCS) at HPE, MCS is now “part of the Data Center Infrastructure Group (DCIG).”

With this return to infrastructure and platforms HPE may not be the size of company it was just a short time ago when the world knew of only HP. But the changes are definitely for the better. HPE may have sold off its legacy software offerings – yes, anything that isn’t contributing to a software-defined everything HPE has lumped into the legacy category – and the rapidity with which NonStop development has pursued virtual NonStop brings it now into the realm of software-defined infrastructure. And with MCS, including the NonStop organization, becoming part of the strategically important group, DCIG, for the NonStop community this is perhaps the most significant change of all!

Riding my own motorcycle up the driveway into my home, with the falling rain easing considerably,  can not be considered an accomplishment on the same scale as to what HPE has achieved these past couple of weeks. And yet as I turned skyward, there is never any rain without clouds! The more I look into the changes taking place within HPE the more I see a resurgence of enthusiasm in support of the many things NonStop does particularly well. NonStop SQL/MX, for instance, is the best-suited to OLTP of any databases available today – when it comes to mixed workloads, in parallel, it is simply without peer. With NonStop, customers can leverage the best software on the planet even as they are assured it is a platform crucial to HPE’s future.

The InfoWorld article closed with a particularly telling observation coming from Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. “I’m actually relieved HPE is getting back to what everyone knows they do well, and that's infrastructure and platforms,” said Moorhead. “‘Big’ and application software didn't work well for HPE, and I think they have the potential to move much more quickly in the future in areas where they can make a real impact.” Perhaps then, all things considered, we should be singing right along with Eric Clapton – Let it rain! Let it rain! Let it rain!

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