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HPE Storage, Big Bazar or Real Strategy?

Where is famous historical HP R&D?

HPE Storage strategy is a mystery for several years hesitating in various products lines, making acquisitions, missing other ones and confirming that hardware sales are the priority. No doubt about it.

The Covid-19 epidemic forces some companies to reimagine a new way to work and even to think about a new organization. This is the case for HPE perfectly illustrated by HPE’s CEO Antonio Neri blog post.

First, Mark Potter, CTO, retires replaced by Kumar Sreekanti, former CEO and co-founder of BlueData, acquired by HPE in 2018, also head of software. Neri confirms the direction of HPE to deliver IT-as-a-service, adopting a subscription model and targeting multi-cloud environments.

Seven business groups are (re)defined:

  1. Storage led by Tom Black with primary, all-flash, hybrid, collaboration, big data storage and HCI
  2. HPC and Mission Critical Solutions led by Pete Ungaro with Cray, Superdome Flex, Apollo, NonStop, Integrity, Moonshot and Edgeline
  3. Compute led by Neil MacDonald with ProLiant, Synergy, Blades, OneView and Cloudline
  4. GreenLake Cloud Services led by Keith White
  5. Intelligent Edge led by Keerti Melkote with Aruba
  6. Pointnext Technology Services led Pradeep Kumar
  7. Financial Services led by Irv Rothman

This new organization, but also true in the past, confirms that software is not a priority but hardware is.

Bizarre to see that HCI belongs to the storage group, why not in compute. We have never see an user choosing a HCI solution for an enterprise file server or a block storage array, but we know several file or block storage vendors who implement and run their service on hypervisors. This is very different.

In the last 25 years, HPE has acquired more than 25 companies in storage, data management, cloud and data center space including HCI. The table below summarizes a selection of acquisitions during this long epic:

Companies acquired In
Acquisition amount
($ million)
MapR Aug. 2019
CRAY May 2019 1.300
QuattroLabs Dec. 2018
BlueData Dec. 2018
Nimble Storage Apr. 2017 1.090
Cloud Cruiser Jan. 2017
SimpliVity May 2017 650
SGI Aug. 2016 275
Trilead Feb. 2016
Eucalyptus May 2015
Autonomy Oct. 2011 11.000
3PAR Sep. 2010 2.350
Stratavia Aug. 2010
IBRIX Aug. 2009
LeftHand Networks Oct. 2008 360
Opsware Jul. 2007 1.600
PolyServe Feb. 2007
OuterBay Feb. 2006
AppIQ Sep. 2005
Persist Technology Nov. 2003
Compaq May 2002 25.000
StorageApps Sep. 2001 350
Transoft Networks May 1999
NuView Nov. 1997
Convex Computer Sep. 1995 150

HPE has made an incredible decision to sell its software business unit to MicroFocus in 2017 for $8.8 billion and products such Data Protector or even Connected Backup disappeared as an HPE brand loosing a solution effect, integration advantages and installed base. And we don’t need to mention the Autonomy fiasco.

In parallel, HPE Pathfinder invests in 22 companies such as Chef, Cohesity, D2IQ, Hedvig, OpsRamp, Platform9, Portworx, Scality and WekaIO. Among these, clearly HPE missed Hedvig, finally swallowed by Commvault for $225 million in September 2019. When HPE invested in Hedvig, Milan Shetti, CTO of the data center infrastructure group at HPE, served as a technical advisor to Hedvig. Shetti left HPE in March 2020. This Hedvig path would have been perfect to replace solutions from partners Cohesity and Scality as a multi-protocol SDS.

HPE promoted the Complete partner program with a number of companies reduced last few months, today to only 15 companies according to the program page: Arxscan, Carbonite, Chef, Commvault, CTera, Datera, iTernity, Komprise, NVidia, RackTop, Smartoptics, StorMagic, Tamr, ThoughtSpot and Zerto.

HPE Storage Portolio detailed below is pretty dense and rich but a lot of elements come from partners and acquisitions.

Product line Details
Block Storage
  • HPE Primera
  • 3PAR StoreServ 
  • HPE Nimble Storage
  • XP8 from Hitachi Vantara
  • Datera on Apollo 4000 family
  • In the past HPE sold HPE StoreVirtual Storage from Lefthand Networks, MSA from Compaq like the EVA line
File Storage
  • HPE StoreEasy
  • 3PAR File Persona and StoreServ File Controller
  • Qumulo on Apollo 4000 family and GreenLake
  • CTera File for HPE SimpliVity
  • In the past, HPE offered Ibrix and Polyserve following on their acquisitions
Object Storage
  • Nothing from HPE
  • Scality on Apollo 4000 family
  • Cohesity on ProLiant and Apollo is also an alternative
  • In EMEA and US, HPE has pushed Cloudian via Pointnext and tactically we have seen SwiftStack (now Nvidia) and Ceph. Before IBM acquisition, HPE has promoted Cleversafe as well
Secondary Storage
  • StoreEver product line for tape solutions
  • StorOnce as deduplication backup appliance
  • Cohesity on ProLiant and Apollo 4000 families
Hyper-Converged Infrastructure
  • HPE SimpliVity but Nutanix is also resold on GreenLake
  • HPE Nimble Storage dHCI
HPC Storage
  • CRAY (Lustre-based)
  • We saw HPE distributing DDN (Lustre and Spectrum Scale), WekaIO and Panasas

We don’t mention connectivity in this table neither big data solutions following BlueData and MapR acquisitions.

In this portfolio described above, just remove HPE acquisitions and reseller agreements and you realize that HPE is naked, trying to find what come from HPE organically. This list illustrates the difficulty for HPE to develop its own storage and data management software. Even Omniback then Data Protector was not HP product.

We’ll see how Sreekanti will define a software-defined strategy in the next few months especially for storage. Time is crucial for HPE, so we expect some decisions about potential acquisitions. Again HPE missed Hedvig. Cohesity is attractive but expensive, discussion should start at $3 billion and Datera (under trouble), Qumulo and Scality even Commvault are good targets as well. Qumulo, a leader in modern file storage and pure player, is also attractive but talk starts high as well due to the quality of the product, the market adoption and the team.

With this new reorganization, HPE has to offer and build something different and a new era mat starting …