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Delivering composable infrastructure holds SDDC key for HPE

Running hard to catch up with competitors, HPE gets ready to deliver a new approach to help users realize their long-held vision for a software-defined data center.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise will make another concerted push to break into the software-defined data center, as it prepares to roll out finished versions of Synergy, the backbone of the company's composable infrastructure.

Last year, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) introduced its concept of composable infrastructure at its Discover conference in June. Then, in December, HPE first unveiled Synergy, which allows corporate users to break up multiple components of a data center's IT infrastructure and reassemble them to more efficiently handle specific workloads. HPE now is ready to make Synergy available as promised next month, coinciding with this year's Discover event.

"I am interested in this and any technology, really, that can be an on-ramp to the Internet for our business," said a purchasing agent for a midsize auto parts supplier in upstate New York who requested anonymity. "We've invested in HP's hardware and some software and it would be nice to stay with them if this idea works out."

If [HPE] can make IT people a convincing proposition with composable infrastructure, its hyper-converged offerings, a strong flash [storage] play and analytics like Vertica, they could be in a good place.
Dana Gardnerprincipal analyst, Interarbor Solutions, LLC

HPE's composable infrastructure strategy could boost its other products -- if it succeeds.

"If [HPE] can make IT people a convincing proposition with composable infrastructure, its hyper-converged offerings, a strong flash [storage] play and analytics like Vertica, they could be in a good place," said Dana Gardner, principal analyst with Interarbor Solutions LLC in Gilford, N.H. "But they need to figure out with enterprises the right mix of cloud services and software-defined elements for on premises."

Synergy is positioned as infrastructure that can be used for both cloud-native workloads and traditional applications, to give visibility into the available cloud resources for all applications throughout an enterprise with a unified management framework through OneView.

"If architected correctly, an IT organization should be able to allocate the required resources to each business unit and dynamically provision and re-provision based on the needs of their applications," said Gina Longoria, analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy in Austin, Texas.

The biggest hurdle

HPE is expected to trumpet Synergy at its Discover conference next month, to help users establish a more agile foundation that can adapt to a range of rapidly changing cloud and on-premises technologies.

The biggest hurdle for widespread adoption of composable infrastructure is that Synergy is a "significant investment and it will take a lot of convincing to get enterprises to take the leap," Longoria said. Enterprises looking for a gradual, lower cost way to adopt composable infrastructure will likely turn to HPE's converged and hyper-converged portfolio. Additionally, HPE must find ways to include more third-party systems and public cloud resources into its unified management framework, she said.

To push sales of Synergy, HPE will likely encourage the use of on-premises and private cloud applications wherever it makes sense, Longoria said.

"That being said, HPE understands that the future is hybrid cloud and I expect they will invest in capabilities that help provide increased choice and visibility of both private and public cloud resources through their management frameworks and integration with third-party tools," she said.

HPE beat its chief rival, the soon-to-be Dell Technologies, to market with composable infrastructure, but it is too soon to tell how many enterprise buyers are ready to take the leap into the new market, Longoria said. The combined Dell-EMC recognizes the market is moving to composable infrastructure over time, but the company seems to be waiting for the market to evolve and settle a bit more before jumping in, she said.

Global access to products

HPE made a move to bolster its latest strategy this week, pledging to split off its Enterprise Services unit and merge it with Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC).The new company will be jointly owned, with HPE's CEO Meg Whitman serving on the board and CSC's current CEO, Mike Lawrie, becoming CEO. The transaction is currently targeted to be completed by March 2017.

The new IT services company should offer HPE users global access to products and services for cloud, application modernization, IT services, big data and analytics, Whitman told analysts. HPE and the new services company "will be closely connected with agreements that keep the two companies aligned for current customers and, together, can grow new business opportunities over time," she said.

The pending deal has both an upside and downside, according to research firm Technology Business Research in Hampton, N.H.

The upside is the deal positions HPE to better focus on converged and software-defined data center opportunities from an infrastructure standpoint. The downside creates hurdles as users seek support for a number of IT modernization projects along with wanting to use more as-a-service IT delivery.

HPE's overall revenues and earnings for its second fiscal quarter were generally upbeat with revenue reaching $12.7 billion, up 1.3% compared with last fiscal year's second quarter. Services revenues grew 7% year over year, storage revenues went up 2% YOY, converged storage shot up 19% YOY, and networking grew 57% YOY.

Besides delivering its composable infrastructure products, the company will introduce at next month's event some "significant new innovations" that will cut across its cloud and the Internet of Things, according to Whitman -- including an update to The Machine, its next-generation server first introduced two years ago.

HPE is also expected to introduce both high- and low-end flash storage products that compete directly with offerings from archrivals EMC and Dell Technologies, respectively, and will be aggressively priced, according to sources familiar with the company's plans.

"They will go upstream to hit EMC and downstream to hit Dell," one source said. "Bashing EMC and Dell is going to be one of the themes at this year's [Discover] conference."

For storage, HPE has "a favorable price and performance delta" between top competitors Dell-EMC and NetApp Inc.-SolidFire Inc., and the company will continue to work toward a modular technology platform for storage, hybrid cloud, security, etc. -- in the same way Oracle has done with applications and Cisco with networking, according to Christopher Wilder, senior analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy.

Ed Scannell is a senior executive editor with TechTarget. Contact him at[email protected].

Robert Gates covers data centers, data center strategies, server technologies, converged and hyper-converged infrastructure and open source operating systems for SearchDataCenter. Follow him on Twitter @RBGatesTT or email him at [email protected].

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