HPE starts Hybrid Cloud push, will herd users into GreenLake subs service

Unit aims to 'take share in storage, scale private cloud, and expand into infrastructure software'

HPE's Hybrid Cloud unit starts operations next month, yet it is unclear if the hardware giant can persuade more customers that its GreenLake service can steer them through the complexity of a multi-cloud world.

The formation of a new Hybrid Cloud business unit was announced by HPE chief Antonio Neri in September as part of organizational changes set to take effect at the start of the company's 2024 fiscal year, November 1.

Leading the division is chief technology officer Fidelma Russo, who talked about the aims of the Hybrid Cloud division at the company's recent Securities Analyst Meeting in New York.

Russo said that HPE's strategy is to take share in storage, scale private cloud with existing GreenLake momentum and expand into infrastructure software. Russo adds that a key part of any hybrid cloud approach these days is managing resources across multiple platforms, typically on-prem and one or more public clouds.

She claimed that enterprises are now moving from a "public cloud first approach" to a hybrid model.

Our observations differ somewhat. Initially, enterprises seemed to adopt public cloud services as an ad-hoc supplement to on-premises IT. However, they soon realized that this approach introduced complexities, making it difficult to manage and accurately track costs. Some public sector bodies, especially in the UK, do have a formal cloud-first policy.

However, Russo also claimed that many organizations have found that as their data grows and becomes more distributed in nature, it is "neither scalable nor economical" to rely solely on the public cloud, especially with the advent of generative AI and the huge amounts of data needed for that (we all knew a mention of GenAI was inevitable).

This isn't an entirely new stance for HPE; a couple of years ago, the company ran a brief campaign claiming cloud-first policies had been unsuccessful and public sector bodies needed to have a rethink. HP, as was, previously ditched its public cloud services shortly before the company split which led to the creation of HPE.

The focus these days is on HPE's Greenlake subscription-based IT-as-a-service platform, with both on-premises and public cloud resources managed under a single console wherever possible. At least, that is the idea.

Russo claimed HPE can differentiate from the public cloud because it sets out to solve three of the biggest customer challenges. "Transform their business through the power of data, modernize their IT infrastructure with a true cloud experience, and dramatically simplify the operations of their multi-generational and multi-cloud IT estates," she said.

Every IT company claims to solve customer problems, so why does HPE think it stands out?

The answer is GreenLake, which Russo played a large part in developing. She said the idea is built on three foundations: "Customers should not have to choose between the agility of the public cloud and the performance and control of their private infrastructure. Second, customers want choice and freedom from lock-in. And third, they operate multi-generational, multi-vendor IT estates that need to coexist with the public cloud," she said.

The GreenLake portfolio now offers multi-cloud orchestration for virtual machines, containers, and bare metal. It also includes private cloud solutions where customers can self-manage or opt for a fully managed service. And it delivers AI infrastructure as a service, as Russo highlighted during her talk.

To address the thorny problems of working with multiple clouds, GreenLake also includes AI-powered monitoring and observability via HPE's acquisition of OpsRamp earlier this year.

This is a key piece of the puzzle, according to Omdia chief analyst Roy Illsley.

"I know OpsRamp and I believe that adopting a multi-cloud management capability will work with the hybrid cloud and GreenLake offerings HPE have," he said.

Illsley told us that some other companies talk about the same capabilities, "but HPE acquired the technology that is proven."

Russo mentioned that all of HPE's hybrid cloud, storage, private cloud, HPE Aruba Networking, and Compute offerings are delivered via HPE GreenLake to provide a unified cloud-based management experience.

Is Greenlake a big differentiator? HPE had first mover advantage, pipping legacy hardware rivals with a services model that was one answer to the problem of more and more customers opting for cloud computing. Yet not many resellers got behind Greenlake early on, with just 1.125 percent of them signing up to support the portfolio, as The Register reported at the time. Hardware rivals have now followed suit, launching their own subscription-based schemes, such as Dell with its Apex portfolio and Lenovo with TruScale.

At the Securities Analyst briefing, Russo mentioned HPE's "tremendous adoption" among customers and partners. She highlighted that more than 27,000 unique customers are now using the HPE GreenLake platform.

She claimed that the value proposition "clearly resonates with our customers" and attributed HPE's unique position to its pioneering efforts in "as-a-service" models, bolstered by "years of careful acquisitions and investment." ®

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