HPE sees Synergy in hybrid cloud infrastructure

Turn-about is fair play for HPE, as it takes cloud-like on-premises tools back to the cloud

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The Element: A temporary Hewlett Packard Enterprise logo was raised at the Palo Alto headquarters to mark the first day of the new company.

Credit: Hewlett Packard Enterprise

For Hewlett Packard Enterprise, turn-about is fair play in the cloud.

HPE originally pitched its Synergy line of "composable" IT infrastructure as a way to bring the flexibility of cloud services to on-premises systems. Now it's turning that story around, putting those same Synergy components -- and some new ones -- into the public cloud with the goal of simplifying hybrid IT management.

The new components of Synergy made their debut in London on Tuesday, at HPE Discover, an event for the company's customers and partners.

Among the new offerings are a software update for the HPE Hyper Converged 380 server, and a new version of HPE Helion CloudSystem. Both incorporate new cloud management functions intended to simplify the automation of repetitive tasks. There are also two new ways to pay for it all, HPE Dynamic Usage for Hyper Converged Systems, and HPE Flexible Capacity Service, and some deft financial engineering to move some of the business risks onto partners.

HPE's goal is to allow IT departments to act as service providers for their organization, rather than maintaining infrastructure.

"The most efficient way to deal with the cloud point of view is to take it from an application perspective, start with the workload and derive the infrastructure to support it," said Matt Foley, HPE's director of cloud presales in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The Hyper Converged 380 is essentially just an ProLiant DL380. What turns the server into a "software-defined virtualization solution," as HPE calls it, is its Hyper Converged Operating Environment, an updated version of which HPE revealed in London.

The new version, when it is released in the first quarter next year, will add integrated analytics and multi-tenant workspaces. Together, HPE says, these will IT departments to manage servers as a single resource pool, composing and recomposing virtualized environments for individuals or workgroups, and to predict future needs.

"It's an upgrade to the management subsystem," said Foley. "It's a headless OneView, a friendlier management console for setting up virtual machines. ... It also provides a friendlier front-end for storage systems," he said.

HPE Synergy with HPE Helion CloudSystem 10 is a bit of a mouthful, but HPE clearly hopes it will be easier to use than to say.

Although it won't be generally available until the first quarter next year, some customers have had access to CloudSystem 10 for a while now, Foley said.

"We're seeing more success in terms of customer usage than we did in previous versions," he said. "Products have ups and downs in their lifecycle and this one's on an up."

One advantage of CloudSystem 10 is in lower licensing costs: "In CloudSystem 9, if you were using VMware as a hypervisor, the licensing terms were expensive," Foley said. The new version works with a less expensive VMware license, he said.

HPE has rolled in its OneView Composer infrastructure automation management software, and Version 10 also pulls in more OpenStack services: "We are able to use KVM from OpenStack rather than from a third-party vendor," Foley said.

One of HPE's aims is to simplify not just the management of infrastructure, but also of applications. It's doing this by developing templates for common apps.

"There's a certain amount of work we can simplify, such as installation," Foley said, but "There's other work that's harder to simplify, such as customization. Work there never really goes away. That's why we have been working with partners to build templates."

HPE is preloading templates for common apps onto Synergy systems, but has to strike a delicate balance between overstuffing servers with too many templates, and leaving some customers unsatisfied that there aren't enough.

"This idea that 80 percent of it is the same, it doesn't hasn't been true," Foley said.

Even if HPE did at some point manage to provide 80 percent coverage of the applications used by its customers, it would be forever playing catch-up because, Foley said, applications age over time, or fall out of favor.

When it comes time to pick up the check, HPE has a couple of new options to offer. HPE Flexible Capacity Service will make it easier to scale up and scale down capacity -- and to charge business units per virtual machine for their use of on-premises infrastructure, just as they would pay for cloud services.

The other payment innovation is HPE Dynamic Usage for Hyper Converged Systems, a new tool that IT service providers can use to bill for multi-tenant workspaces based on virtual machine usage.

The canny company has also found a way to offload some of the risk of investing in hybrid cloud infrastructure. Today, HPE's Technology Services group leases cloud infrastructure owned by the company's Financial Services group, renting it out to customers piecemeal and hoping to make a profit from the difference. But in future, Foley said, HPE will allow partners to take on that risk, living on whatever margin they can make from renting out HPE-owned infrastructure.

"It's extending the capability to do consumption-based pricing to partners," Foley said.

HPE has a packed program for its Discover event, so this is unlikely to be the last news coming out of London this week.

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