Barcelona event shows HP has turned the corner
HP is back. That message from Hewlett-Packard Corp. Inc.’s annual Discover conference in Barcelona came over clearly in the three days of coverage on theCUBE and CrowdChat. Having paid down its debt down and stabilized its balance sheet, HP is starting to make strategic moves. It has completed a major stock buyback and made its first strategic acquisition under CEO Meg Whitman with Eucalyptus, which is the most commonly used software for the private side of hybrid clouds using Amazon Web Services (AWS). And it has released version 1 of Helion, its OpenStack cloud technology.
Whitman also has successfully revived HPs research and development with “results that are already evident throughout the product line,” said Wikibon Chief Analyst David Vellante. The company is focusing on core next-generation products such as 3PAR and flash storage, Helion both on prem and in the public cloud, software-defined infrastructure, HP OneView and server hardware including Moonshot and the latest technology from Intel. However, it is not abandoning its aging legacy technologies, which are also getting technology refreshes and are included in its software-defined technologies, which include the OneView single-pane-of-glass data center management solution.
Whitman has defined HP’s focus as being on technological innovation, customers and partners. And while IBM this year abandoned the Intel server market, HP discounts talk of x86 server commoditization and sees plenty of headroom for innovation. Much of HP’s focus, particularly in automation and Big Data, is on the IT organization (ITO) itself.
Storage: 3PAR All-flash array
In storage, HP is focusing on 3PAR, its underlying IO-based array architecture. Because 3PAR was not written as a spinning disk technology, it can support multiple storage media types natively in what HP calls a “polymorphic architecture”. This year HP brought out a new high-end 3PAR all-flash array at a price point that makes it competitive with high-end disk. As a result, said Vish Mulchand, director of product management for HP storage on theCUBE, “We’ve seen a massive explosion in flash demand. Flash storage sales are up [sixfold] over the past 12 months.”
HP also announced a capability to migrate large amounts of data from other vendors’ arrays, and aimed the new all-flash array directly at EMC. David Scott, SVP and general manager of HP storage, said on theCUBE that customers are finding it easier to migrate to the HP array than to the new EMC array because HP has solved the three key problems in flash: price, enterprise scalability and enterprise resiliency. 3PAR gives HP flash arrays a full, resilient stack that many startup flash vendors lack, and because it is the same stack across all of HP’s storage products, users can easily build a tiered storage infrastructure that includes all flash, hybrid flash and inexpensive mass spinning disk. Other vendors, he said in an obvious dig at EMC, try to hide the complexity of their multiple storage families under an overlying software-led management layer. “We don’t believe that hiding complexity is the same as providing simplicity.” For HP, the software-defined layer is used to provide advanced services such as automated tiering across arrays, not to try to unify different technologies.
Servers & Moonshot
Servers have long been HP’s strength in the data center and, said Chuck Smith, VP and general manager of HP’s Blades & Cloud Business Unit. IBM’s exit from the x86 market “is a huge opportunity for HP,” which continues to invest in the space. HP has recruited “hundreds of IBM channel partners” and customers who are concerned about what the shift to Lenovo means for them. The business is good enough that HP’s services business has developed a transition workshop that it runs at HP events and takes to large IBM customers who are considering moving more to HP.
HP has also developed an unusual asymmetric Big Data reference architecture to meet the needs of varied Big Data workloads, said Steve Tramack, HP director of Big Data engineering. “There is no one optimal system for Big Data,” he said. “MapReduce is very different from Sparc.” So while HP’s initial Big Data appliance was popular, users said it did not always fit the workloads of the various Big Data projects that were beginning to appear around the edges of the data center.
“So we thought, ‘What if we split compute and storage enabled by Yarn (Yet Another Resource Negotiator) for multiple workloads, running on HDFS, and create a asymmetrical cluster for Hadoop?’” he asked. The result, he said, is not a converged system but rather a reference architecture built on HP’s innovative Moonshot hyperscale system in a box running 45 Xeon E3 processors using a SL4540 25 TByte storage array. YARN allocates server and storage resources according to the needs of each Big Data job.
HP’s Superdome high-end server line also got a refresh with SuperDome X, aka “the HANA Hawk”. SAP’s HANA on Superdome is a hot market, said Paul Miller, VP of worldwide marketing, HP Converged Systems. “Customers see the value of moving to in-memory databases,” he said. ”It can let them change their business models to respond faster to their markets.”
Second Generation Converged Systems
HP also announced a new generation of converged systems that give users limited flexibility to customize their boxes, for example by replacing the HP network top switch with a Cisco switch or by sizing storage to meet the intended need while maintaining the single unit. This gives users cost and efficiency advantages and much shorter time-to-value. The converged system market will reach $15 billion in two years, Jeff Carlat, director of HP Converged Systems said on theCUBE. HP has been in the converged systems market for six years and is responding to requests from customers for more flexibility to customize the boxes they buy. The new converged systems can come pre-configured to interface with either VMware vCenter or Microsoft Hyper-V as well as HP’s OneView data center management system. Users can purchase these customized converged systems preloaded with SAP HANA, Microsoft SQLServer, or a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). A converged system with HP Helion preinstalled is “on the way.”
HP announced a new addition to the family, the Converged System 200. This smaller system is designed for small companies that do not need the power of the original Converged System 700 and for large customers who want smaller increments of scale-out power for some applications, said Brent Allen, group manager, HP Converged Systems on theCUBE.
Above the box level, “What we see happening is management software-based convergence, focused on managing multitudes of converged boxes” on a single pane-of-glass, said Nariman Teymourian, SVP & general manager, HP Converged Systems. An example of this is a software layer designed to manage converged systems from HP and other vendors that comes pre-integrated as part of the converged system. The software covers compute, storage and networking and can expand as the customer adds more hardware to the environment.
“We’re designing the OneView platform to do that,” he said. “It manages HP converged infrastructure but is beginning to deliver more capability. It can run Cisco top layer networking and components from Microsoft and Citrix.” Over time it will grow to manage more components from other providers.
Software-Defined Networking (SDN)
OneView did not get much mention in the Keynotes or on theCUBE, but it got SiliconAngle Founder John Furrier’s “hallway award” as the most-discussed topic offstage. In the final show wrapup, Furrier noted that the OneView booth, which happened to be adjacent to theCUBE at the conference, was constantly packed with attendees.
OneView is the core of HP’s overall software-defined infrastructure initiative, said Dominic Wilde, VP of Marketing and Global Product Line Management, HP Networking.
SDN simplifies network management by providing single pane-of-glass management of the entire network. This allows network techs to spot a problem when it first appears and take immediate action. And when the problem is not the network, it lets them demonstrate their “innocence,” Wilde said. HP has three network virtualization solutions to meet the needs of different customers. These include an option tha’ts integrated with HP Helion to support private and hybrid cloud and one integrated with VMware vCenter.
HP also announced its Distributed Cloud Network (DCN) for large enterprises and service providers. This has a Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) data plane so it can fit into their networks without any disruption of service.
Customers, he said, see the value but often do not see how to implement it in an existing heterogeneous production network environment where even seconds of downtime can be a disaster for the business. HP offers on-site transformation workshops with HP experts who work with the customer’s staff to develop a phased migration roadmap.
HP believes 2015 will be a big year for SDN adoption said Alistair Winner, VP of HP Technology Services, Services and Networking. “The customers have kicked the tires for awhile, and now we are at the point where they are starting to implement,” he said. The big driver is time savings. A traditional, static network can take weeks to configure, but with SDN an entire network can be reconfigured in an hour. Furthermore, the configuration can be saved and reapplied the next time it is needed, such as during the end-of-the-quarter reporting period.
Helion version 1, HP’s first full implementation of OpenStack, is now available. The initial version is intended for private cloud implementations, said Mark Interrante SVP Engineering, HP Cloud. Version 2 will see Helion become a hybrid cloud architecture that HP and its partners can use to create public clouds to service their customers.
Meanwhile, HP bought Eucalyptus, which Amazon VP Andy Jaffe points to as the on-premise solution for building hybrid clouds with Amazon Web Services (AWS). Martin Mickos, senior VP and general manager of HP Cloud and former Eucalyptus CEO, said Eucalyptus is now available running on top of Helion. The strategy is to create an alliance with the runaway leader in the enterprise Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) market and ride AWS to find customers who want to build hybrid clouds. This is good news for AWS users, who can now tap into a large worldwide vendor with a full infrastructure stack and strong services arm to help them create hybrid clouds on the AWS platform. Amazon has so far shown no interest in providing on-premise cloud infrastructure.
The overall message from Discover is that HP is moving forward with a vision focused on the data center, with innovative hardware and data center automation tools and a cloud strategy built initially on private cloud. Far from seeing SDI as a threat to its business, HP is embracing it and taking a leadership role with OneView and its homegrown SDN offerings leading the way. Having missed the server virtualization market, it is taking on VMware and Cisco head-on, providing a third alternative to its customers in networking and storage.
Dave Vellante said HP saw a 29 percent drop in its business last quarter but attributed much of that to customers putting off orders knowing that the vendor would be announcing new products throughout its product line, most of which will be available in January. HP’s financial and organizational troubles made it a latecomer to many of the most important data center trends, but it has ended 2014 with an impressive start.
HP flag photo REUTERS/Thierry Roge
Speaker photos from theCUBE
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