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The HPE Corner

HPE has to clear the forest before bathing in the sunshine but the journey has started and the NonStop community is participating!

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To any outsider looking at HPE for the first time in many years it can come as quite a surprise to find out that HPE is now much smaller than it was three or four years ago. Even to those who follow the financial health of HPE the change was dramatic – first splitting from the consumer division, HP Inc. (HPQ), and then going through a number of spin-merges that effectively saw a $130billion behemoth become a much more focused, $28+billion corporation that is increasingly concentrating the majority of its efforts on software. The challenge of course, with such a change, is to see it for what it is – a reflection of the bigger change that is taking place on the data center floor.

Hardware today is commodity with paper thin margins and with the biggest consumers of servers quite prepared to shop for the best deal. Often times this means going directly to the source of mother boards and simply ordering them by the container load where each is built to a design specified by the user. HPE treats this as a volume business and it’s quite separate from the value business that HPE is nurturing and for the NonStop community the good news here is that NonStop is playing an important role in growing the value business. Just as importantly and yes, further good news for the NonStop community, the VP & GM heading one of the most important value businesses is the former head of NonStop, Randy Meyer.

Whenever Randy steps onto the stage to face an audience of NonStop users it feels to him like coming home. Apart from knowing almost everyone in the crowd gathered before him, communicating HPE’s vision, strategy and key messages for NonStop is an opportunity for him to talk in terms that they all recognize. While not quite the case of preaching to the converted, as over the years Randy has produced a couple of surprises, all the same he knows he will find very few NonStop users unsupportive of his plans for NonStop. Quite to contrary, just being able to talk about a plan for NonStop with conviction even as results of new investments in NonStop are published and promoted, is a huge step forward from what was happening a decade ago.

Fortunately, the extra spring in Randy’s step of late is also a reflection of what is transpiring at the top of HPE. Anyone who follows HPE CEO Antonio Neri on Twitter will know that over a very short period of time Neri visited the developers in India, the partners in Switzerland, the startups that are part of the Pathfinder program and then university students in Houston. Antonio Neri is making a big break with the past and actually taking the time to listen to a variety of communities and this personal touch is winning him accolades across the board. In one recent tweet he thanked Forbes for recognizing this commitment (“our company is transparent, trustworthy and doing right by the world,” Neri tweeted) and awarding HPE a spot on its list of the 100 Most Reputable Companies. This personal engagement by Neri notwithstanding, to many observers, HPE is still not out of the woods.

It’s not a player in the cloud marketplace and it’s not a pure-software player either. On the other hand, its software revenues are looking better with each quarter even as it has software offerings that can be exploited on a pay-per-use basis as Software as a Service (SaaS). When HPE announced its OneSphere product line, for instance, it surprised many when HPE said there was no upfront investment required. Indeed, at HPE Discover Madrid, HPE Senior VP & GM, Software Defined & Cloud Group, Ric Lewis went to great lengths to assure everyone that they were on the level; no, you didn’t need any extra servers to run OneSphere nor did you have to enter into a lengthy contractual commitment to run OneSphere.

“Our customers need a radically new approach – one that’s designed for the new hybrid IT reality,” stated Lewis, in the official OneSphere press release. “With HPE OneSphere, we’re abstracting away the complexity of managing multi-cloud environments and applications so our customers can focus on what’s important – accelerating digital transformation and driving business outcomes.” According to the press release, “HPE OneSphere’s multi-cloud strategy – enabling the solution to be used with any public cloud provider – is designed to dramatically simplify operations. The solution works across virtual machines, containerized workloads, and bare metal applications, so internal stakeholders can compose hybrid clouds capable of supporting both traditional and cloud-native applications. Delivered as a service, HPE OneSphere provides users with a single point to access all their applications and data from anywhere.”

A little deeper into the press release, HPE was only too happy to explain how the “HPE OneSphere pay-for-use subscription licensing model complements the HPE Flexible Capacity pay-for-use consumption model for customers’ on-premises infrastructure.” This is of particular relevance for the NonStop community as looking further afield, it’s clear that with the availability of virtualized NonStop (vNS), similar pricing models may be had as NonStop ends up being offered on the per use basis too, as NSaaS!

HPE has still a lot to prove to the marketplace and there is still a lot of forest between HPE and daylight but at least the journey that it is now on is taking it much closer to that daylight! These references to OneSphere are not suggesting that NonStop will be a resource that today OneSphere can address and simplify operations. But as vNS gathers momentum and NonStop users find it an attractive enough alternative to traditional NonStop deployment (including NonStop X), then it wouldn’t come as a surprise to read that future virtualized NonStop workloads running in cloud environments become resources OneSphere can manage nor would it come as a surprise to see such workloads falling under a similar pay-for-use model as is the case for OneSphere.

There is still a long way to go before we see any of that occurring for NonStop users but the message from HPE’s Lewis continues to resonate with me; customers need a radically new approach – one that’s designed for the new hybrid IT reality and yes, one that’s also based on a pay-for-use subscription licensing model. How that will impact the ecosystem of NonStop vendors providing tools and utilities and solutions is still to be determined but already, some baby-steps are being taken towards such an outcome. For now, thought, this is still very much a discussion topic but with the upcoming major user events planned for the remainder of this quarter, I am sure such a topic will be of interest to everyone looking to continue their own journey with NonStop!