HP Enterprise Reinvests in Networking

Hewlett Packard has been in the news a lot this past year, and for largely positive reasons. They are on track to split the company into two separate entities before the end of 2015: HP Enterprise and HP Inc. They acquired the largest independent wireless company in the industry, Aruba Networks, and they’ve announced a partnership with Arista Networks. With all of this happening, as well as the veritable raft of product announcements and other tidbits, I was happy to accept an invitation by HP to attend their annual tech conference in Las Vegas, HP Discover.

While at HP Discover, I spoke with Mark Carroll, Chief Technology Officer, HP Networking. An incredibly gracious and down-to-earth guy, he was eager and willing to speak about about a variety of topics pertaining to the split of HP, new products, strategy, competition, and any topics I chose.

At HP Discover this year, there was an obvious focus on the Aruba acquisition, from the show floor presence, to the various keynotes. How important is this acquisition for you?

For HP Networking, the Aruba acquisition is very important and is our key focus at the moment. Not only the acceleration of the mobility business, but also how it ties together mobility, wired, Data Center and Cloud. We feel we have a unique opportunity in which we need to take full advantage to move from number two into the number one position. The opportunity is one of a perfect storm, the transformation of the campus and data center leveraging the explosion of mobility but also the transition to 802.11ac, MU-MIMO and SDN as well as the mobility-centric architectural changes in aggregation of wireless.

What do you think the acquisition will mean for the Aruba brand and its ability to compete with other wireless players?

The Aruba brand is strong, and we will make sure to leverage it in the market and our customers. Not only what it stands for product-wise, but also service and customer first. In addition, adding the HP channel and service scale will allow for a much broader reach while still maintaining the heart and soul of the brand.

Have you made any decisions yet as to which, if any, overlapping product lines may be changed going forward?

We are working diligently here. There have been decisions made and we have a few more to make, and we will be targeting 90 days after the close to announce these. I will say that the portfolios are very complementary, and we believe we will be coming out of the gate much stronger together.

You recently announced a partnership with Arista. Can you talk a little more about the strategy behind that, and what possibilities that partnership opens up for both companies?

Yes, this was primarily a tactical partnership driven by Converged Systems. Arista has done well in certain verticals and for those customers, it gives them another option that is not Cisco for some configurations in which they also want HP.

There has been a lot of talk in the press about the split of HP into two separate companies. How do you think this split will help the Enterprise division specifically?

I am optimistic in regards to the HP split into HPI and HPE, and my read on the HP populace is the same. This will give a clear opportunity for two Fortune 50 companies to flourish. It gives both companies an opportunity to focus on their products and customers and really pull away from their competition. In addition, it will allow for the appropriate business models to be optimized from an R&D perspective and margins all the way to compensation. Net net, the expectations is that the customers, employees and investors will benefit greatly.

This year at HP Discover, contrary to prior years, it seems as if HP has gotten its swagger and confidence back. To the extent that you accept the premise of the question, why do you think that is?

Yes, this is a good observation. You can also apply that observation to the employee base, but what is also interesting is you can actually see the confidence in our customers. That is when it really becomes a great place to work. It won’t be long before HP starts to climb back up as one of the best places to work. It all starts out with simply making innovative products that the customers want and will use and doing it quickly. Simple.

Do you think this comes from a position of increased strength due to the recent split, acquisitions, and partnerships?

The quick answer is yes. All three. You can’t accuse HP of inaction. Just look at the past year. Meg has done a great job aligning the leadership, but more importantly teeing up the decisions and moving quickly.

Some of your competitors have referred to your networking products, in an obvious dig, as “good enough.” How do you respond to that, and how do you think you¹re in a better position today than you were a few years ago?

Today the networking industry is once again interesting. The reason for that is that every part of it is in transition and architectural transformation, from campus with wireless and aggregation, to Data Center and Cloud with SDN, NFV and decomposition driving up the new innovation of DevOps while driving down TCO. This will not stop soon, as we foresee at least two more major transitions before networking settles once again. HPN prides itself in leading these changes, from mobility, to campus architecture, to Open Altoline to Helion and converged systems with workload driven optimizations. Some criticize this as taking the eye off the ball. Well, I would say the game has changed and the competition is starting to realize it. Criticism is the first sign of doubt.

How far off-guard were you caught with Cisco UCS, if at all, and how are you now addressing that from a strategy and competitive point of view?

HP was not caught-off guard with it. It was seen when it emerged. I would say we were stretched a bit thin doing multiple items in parallel. The team is now very focused on the complete integrated system and partners in order to address the customers’ needs.

Where do you see the hyper converged infrastructure heading, and what is HP doing in this space specifically?

HP is certainly focused on hyper converged from a few fronts. One being our converged infrastructure and the other bring Altoline/composable offerings. It is an interesting space, in which the customers are not as focused on what is in the system or components, but does it work? And what are the interfaces and is it open? This is where we are making sure we get it right.

Shifting gears a bit, can you talk about your strategy with HP Machine and where that product line is headed?

HP is focused on fundamentally changing the landscape of how we work, live and play. The Machine has, at the heart, a goal of fundamentally changing the landscape of compute, storage and networking at the consumer and business level.

Is there anything I¹ve missed that you’d like to address?

Just keep watching us. We are not done yet. We are re-investing in networking in a way that will leverage all the market transitions as well as the rest of the HPE Businesses.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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