Antonio Neri: HPE’s new container tech tops VMware, Nutanix

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Antonio Neri: HPE’s new container tech tops VMware, Nutanix
Antonio Neri (HPE)

Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Antonio Neri says the 'edge-to-cloud' platform provider’s new open-source, cloud-native Ezmeral software for containers eclipses rival offerings from VMware and Nutanix.

“Think of Ezmeral as a true alternative without any [Vmware] tax on top of it like you have with the Tanzu and VMware stack. Ezmeral is a true open-source, clean, efficient, no-tax stack,” said Neri in an interview with CRN. “I would argue Nutanix does not have something like this. They are still in more of the legacy virtualization environment, and it is a complicated stack in my view.”

With Ezmeral, unveiled Tuesday, HPE is delivering “an open-source, autonomous and intelligent stack” that includes machine learning and AIOps (artificial intelligence for IT operations) and gives HPE an edge over competitive offerings, said Neri.

Ezmeral’s ability to run both cloud-native and non-cloud-native applications is a breakthrough that opens the door for HPE to provide a consistent cloud experience at the edge, on-premises in the data center or even in a public cloud, said Neri.

“We are unifying all the clouds from the edge to the big clouds on behalf of customers so they can consume it the same way with the same experience,” said Neri. “Now they don’t need to be forced to make a decision on a single cloud. They can have it all. And HPE GreenLake cloud services gives that experience to them in a true cloud-native, solutions-driven model. By the way, we allow our partners to come with us versus the others who don’t allow partners to come with them. That is a big differentiator in my mind.”

In an interview with CRN on the eve of HPE's Discover Virtual Experience event, Neri spoke about Ezmeral, new GreenLake cloud services, HPE’s efforts to combat racism and promote inclusivity, as well as other issues. 

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What are the blockbuster announcements from HPE Discover?

One big blockbuster is ‘A New Cloud Called HPE GreenLake.’ Last year I said we were going to make everything available as a service by 2022.

Now we are announcing a series of new HPE GreenLake cloud services, which are targeted for specific workloads that customers want to be kept on-prem, which can now be consumed in the simplest, most cloud-native and standardized way, [including 17 standardized building blocks for small, medium and large businesses that can be quoted, ordered and delivered in 14 days or less.]

We are announcing HP GreenLake cloud for containers, HPE GreenLake for virtualization, HPE GreenLake for data protection services, and also connectivity as a service. And then, in a couple of months we're adding Machine Learning Ops (Operations) as a service.

These are true cloud-native services. From the time you try and buy to the time you deploy, it will be less than two weeks. These are standardized offerings that come in specific sizes. And, ultimately, we deliver them as part of GreenLake, a true cloud experience natively designed and obviously delivered through HPE GreenLake Central. The partners can sell and manage these cloud services on behalf of the customers. 

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How long did it take previously to deploy these services?

It was a bespoke model. Every customer had its own solution. One customer wanted it this way. Another customer wanted it that way. Now it is no different than going to the public cloud. Now you can have that public cloud experience on-prem. So you can provision container as a service at this size and scale it up and down.

You can try it on our HPE GreenLake cloud, where you can play with the solution. The moment the customer says they want it and place the order, then two weeks later it is fully deployed and operational in their data center or [colocation facility]–wherever they want it. This is huge. It is revolutionary in many ways because the entire experience, from quoting to deploying to managing, is all integrated like it is when you go to the public cloud.

This is part of our commitment to make everything available as a service but in a true cloud-native way. Obviously, there will be more innovation added by our partners, who will become even more relevant than before. It is one thing to resell the public cloud and have no control over it. This is selling the same public cloud experience on-premises but with full control over it.

Let’s remember that under the GreenLake cloud experience with GreenLake Central—which is a cloud-native solution—you can also manage your public cloud so you have the same experience on-prem and off-prem.

What is going to be the economic opportunity for partners in terms of recurring revenue and services?

It will be very significant because we are targeting the workloads where the customer has the highest demand. Virtualization is a component of it. But the reality is we are seeing more and more container-based solutions and AI-driven solutions like Machine Learning Ops or data protection services, and SAP as a service.

Fundamentally we are bringing the true, simple cloud-native experience that customers want in a standardized type of offering. The partners don’t have to do a lot of work to get these solutions. All they have to do is go to our catalogue like they were going to the public cloud, order what they need, push the button, and the order will take care of itself. It shows up on-prem two weeks later and it is fully deployed. 

What will be the impact of HPE Ezmeral on partners?

As you know, we have had a container platform for some time. We are introducing not just the brand Ezmeral, but cloud-native functionality. We will keep adding more functionality as we go along here.

What we are doing with HPE Ezmeral is providing a true alternative approach, an open-source, autonomous and intelligent stack that is cloud-native. HPE Ezmeral is an integrated stack—a true software-defined stack—with provisioning and management of infrastructure. It is a classic container platform with persistent storage connectivity that allows you to run stateless and non-stateless applications, meaning cloud-native and non-cloud-native applications without you having to do anything at the workload level.

HPE Ezmeral is a software solution that you can consume as a license because you want an alternative to VMware, Nutanix or Red Hat or whatever stack you are using, and it is fully integrated in the way we deliver the workload-optimized solution as a part of our cloud services with GreenLake.

So you can consume it as a service. So customers can go straight to this cloud-native world with a true open-source [HPE Ezmeral] solution with security and storage connectivity, which are the two inherent problems with containers. We are solving those problems because of the MapR and BlueData acquisitions. We are adding more and more functionality as we go along. That is now a software business with a software-integrated solution called HPE Ezmeral. The partners will be able to sell it whether they sell it as they sell a [software] license like VMware or they can sell it as a cloud service. 

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How does Ezmeral stack up against VMware, Red Hat and Nutanix?

VMware has been on a journey to build more container-like experiences in their solutions, a.) because they have no choice and b.) because customers are demanding it. They announced a product called Tanzu. Think of Ezmeral as a true alternative without any [Vmware] tax on top of it like you have with the Tanzu and VMware stack. Ezmeral is a true open-source, clean, efficient, no-tax stack.

I would argue Nutanix does not have something like this. They are still in more of the legacy virtualization environment, and it is a complicated stack in my view.

Red Hat obviously has been in the container space for some time. We want to position ourselves as a true open-source solution, a true cloud-native solution, but with the ability to run both workloads on the same platform and be able to do it in a fully integrated way at the workload level or to consume it as a service on HPE GreenLake.

I said last year that we would make the full HPE portfolio available as a service by 2022. We are doing that with these announcements of the new HPE GreenLake cloud services, and obviously the software that enables these workload-optimized solutions with HPE Ezmeral.

The bottom-line message to the market is that we have a software business here that is supported by 8,300 engineers. As you know, our company is a little bit more than 60,000 employees–8,300 of them are software engineers.

Obviously we have built this software business both organically and inorganically. I always say innovation comes in three forms: organic, inorganic and through partnerships. That is our strategy.  

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What kind of impact has the COVID-19 pandemic had on HPE’s strategy [Editor's Note: CRN spoke with Neri ahead of his June 17 disclosure that he has tested positive for COVID-19 and is feeling well]?

First and foremost, it is unfortunate what we are living through today with the pandemic and other issues, which are creating social unrest. But what these unfortunate events have proven is that our strategy could not be more spot on. We said three years ago that the enterprise of the future will be edge-centric, cloud-enabled and data-driven. Guess what—that is exactly what it is. We are living now in a massive distributed edge world with more and more people working from home. The enterprise is going to be more distributed than it ever has been before. Think about it. You have a headquarters campus, which may have a data center. Then you have branches, and then you have micro-branches which is your house–single units where people are working.

You need to be able to deploy services and these experiences at scale with the right security for people to do their jobs in a more productive way and then maintain consistency in the culture of the company. It has become an edge-centric world. Obviously, cloud-enabled is because everything you do in the cloud is all about the speed and agility of delivering services. I have said many times, to us cloud is not a destination; it is an experience. So with HPE GreenLake Cloud Services, we are bringing the cloud experience to all your apps and data wherever they live: at the edge, in the data center, in a [colocation facility] or even in a public cloud, for that matter, because we manage that for you.

All of this is data-driven because in the end all outcomes for customers and partners come from insights from the data. So we are moving from what I call the data era to an age of insights. We have got to make that transition. Data does not matter if you cannot get insights from that data. This is why I have said there is a new cloud that you can deploy on-prem or at the edge. It is called HPE GreenLake Cloud Services. We are moving to an age of insights where AI and machine learning get embedded in everything you do. You can consume everything as a service with HPE GreenLake Cloud Services because fundamentally you can scale up and down, preserve liquidity and then make the investments you need to drive innovation from these data insights.

The partners have tremendous opportunity to work with us to move into this new era and grow with us by becoming even more relevant than they ever have been before. As you know, this company has been, is and will continue to be a partner-led company. 

Is the message that only HPE can deliver a common public cloud-like experience from the edge to the core to the cloud?

Absolutely. We are unifying all the clouds from the edge to the big clouds on behalf of customers, so they can consume it the same way with the same experience. Now they don’t need to be forced to make a decision on a single cloud. They can have it all. And HPE GreenLake Cloud Services gives that experience to them in a true cloud-native, solutions-driven model. By the way, we allow our partners to come with us versus the others who don’t allow partners to come with them. That is a big differentiator in my mind. 

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Talk about the death of George Floyd and the stand you and HPE have taken against racism.

It is completely unacceptable. We can’t stand here in 2020 and put up with oppression and racism. With our Living Progress Report you can see all the progress we have made disclosing the numbers on diversity and inclusion. We are staying true to our commitment to advance the way people live and work.

I believe it is a way to create shareholder value. So is the sustained innovation, the progress we have made with the circular economy, carbon emissions, the ability to contribute back to our communities. Everything we do in this regard really matters. 

This article originally appeared at crn.com

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