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HP Discover US 2014. The Day 1 Buzz

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This week I’ve been lucky to be invited by HP to their annual HP Discover conference in Las Vegas. As I’ve been working with HP technology and it’s predecessors for so long, I really couldn’t miss an opportunity to dive deeper into the world of HP and be able to find out more about the myriad of technologies HP is involved in.

Yesterday I travelled for 15 hours from London to Las Vegas via San Francisco and after all that travel headed out to the London Eye in Vegas, well, rather the High Roller, the worlds largest Ferris wheel and met up with the other invited bloggers and social media for spectacular views of the strip.

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Back to the conference itself, let’s not kid ourselves though, HP is facing enormous pressure as technology moves towards a cloud and mobile world no longer just reliant on large enterprise sales and selling expensive printer ink to consumers. We are still in the early ages of cloud computing which is all about agility and choice. This means companies are no longer bound to their particular hardware vendor and are in fact not purchasing any hardware any more but rather buying their services from any number cloud vendors who have the scale, resources and know-how to roll their own infrastructure and are not heading to the likes of HP to buy their kit. HP has been though 4 CEOs in 4 years and is shedding 50,000 staff. Can HP survive this change or are they destined to whither and die.

The conference is pretty massive, 10,000 people in the Sands Expo Center at the Venetian. HP has a lot to talk about with so many hardware and software products often catering to very different people so its impossible to cover in its entirety. Different HP business divisions have their own exhibition “Pavilions” and a number of others are put on by sponsors. HP’s slogan for the event is “Build a Better Enterprise Together”.

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As I’ve been invited as a blogger, one of the best parts of HP Discover are the Coffee Talks that are arranged so we can meet the subject matter experts and executives of all the different areas of HP. This gives us a great opportunity to hear directly from HP and drill down into the tech, strategy and vision and ask questions.

HP Networking

First up was HP Networking with Chris Young, Erik Papir, Dave Hawley, Mark Pearson and the big boss of Management Solutions, Les Stuart. The conversation mainly revolved around HPs involvement in OpenStack and Open Daylight and their Virtual Cloud Networking. HP has upgraded their membership from Silver to Platinum and sees themselves at the forefront of open source networking. 5 of the original contributors to OpenStack now work at HP so they say HP takes it all very seriously. My guess is HP trying to survive as an infrastructure vendor means they need to get serious about cloud and the only way to have a chance at running a large interoperable private/hybrid/public cloud without relying on another vendor is to roll your own with OpenStack.

The conversation then turned to skills with many people saying when looking for network people they are increasingly looking for programming or scripting skills engineers. I find this interesting as although I think currently scripting is the only way to be able to manage networking at scale, this only really brings SDN networking into the current world and doesn’t propel it into the future. I want policy driven networking where I place an application/VM/Disk etc. into a container that has a policy applied to it. This would determine firewall rules, QoS etc. scripting may be a way to currently get there but I wouldn’t want my staff having to script, OK it helps with scale but policy gives me that automation along with compliance and auditing. Interesting times ahead.

I also asked about HPs approach to the myriad of different SDN networking technologies out there, think VMware NSX, Open Daylight, Microsoft NVGRE, Cisco ACI. Networking is all about connectivity. HP says they want topology independent, technology independent, protocol agnostic and vendor agnostic offerings, my take being they want to be all things to all people at the moment so they can ensure they are on the right side of any technological decision and as there’s the inevitable consolidation, HP will still have a seat at the table.

HP Technical Services

Next up was a Coffee Talk about HPs Technical Services, a group I’m not particularly aware of with Brian Whelan, Ken Rief, Ian Jagger and Sherry Foster. The conversation started a little confusingly as they were discussing different offerings which seemed to me to be part of the same thing but that could have been my ignorance.

Basically what is new is that HP now offers a “Facilities as a Service” where HP will build a data center on your behalf and will then rent it back to you under contract for say 5-10 years, starting at 150KW. The benefit is you don’t need to have the initial $20B it takes to build a data center, you can change the purchase from a CapEx cost to a monthly rolling Opex Cost with HP managing the build out. This can be for anyone, an Enterprise building a new data center or more importantly a cloud provider or managed service provider who can start their business with far less of a capital outlay. It makes the CFO happy and acts as a financial engineering solution.

Once you have a data center, either built by HP or yourself, you can then rent a Flexible Capacity solution from HP where HP rents you kit (can also be 3rd party hardware) which again you pay for by use. This means you can get it shipped and installed much quicker than doing it yourself and also pay for only what you need. There is an amount of headroom in the system delivered and when you hit say 25% of this headroom your contract can specify that HP drop another rack of stuff in your data center and you can easily grow into it, again only paying for what you use, bring cloud financials to private data centers. HP owns the equipment and you rent it so again could make your CFO life simpler rather than writing that massive initial cheque.

HP says currently there are two main options you have, build your own data center or use a co-location facility, HP can offer you something in between without you giving up control.

HP Storage

We then had a great coffee talk hosted by David Scott, the ex CEO of 3PAR who came to HP and was given the entire storage portfolio to look after along with 3PARs chief architect and HP Fellow, Siamak Nazari as well as Patrick Osborne and Stephen Spellicy. 3PAR has made a good name for itself in the industry and David fielded the questions very well.

Mainly discussed was the updated 3PAR which has been covered well elsewhere.

Basically it is about giving you enterprise application usage with fast response times, low latency, predictable performance at the price of disk. They use multiple de-duplication technologies to use less consumer MLC giving you a 4-10 to 1 compression all for less than $2 per Gb, the tipping point for the equivalent with 15k HDDs. They can offer a 5 year warranty on these consumer MLC drives with 99.9999 availability, that’s 31 seconds a year!

We then talked about common management, a challenged with HPs different products. The idea is to converge the management and add more and more into HP OneView. I’m thinking this is the answer to EMCs vIPR. I’ve used OneView and an looking forward tomorrow to getting deeper into the product and strategy.

Different traffic does also have different technology involved, you may have a different dedupe technology for your random IO workload for virtualisation or streamed backup traffic but HP wants to abstract this all from you.

Had a great chat to Howard Marks about all things storage and the disruption happening in the industry. Howard knows his stuff!

Keynote

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The main keynote welcome and showoff was then held. This was opened by HP CEO Meg Whitman. It started by recounting some of the highlights of HPs 75 years with Meg saying they want to create new technological categories and innovation for the next 75 years. She said they can’t dwell on the past but have to keep moving, a reference to HPs recent troubled times. She then addressed this directly saying “HP has turned the corner, we have done the hard things to keep us in the lead, re-establishing relationships with employees, customers, investors and partners”.

photo 4 (1)Next up was a clever segment by John Hinshaw, EVP Technology and Operations which HP is highlighting at Discover, called HP on HP which is all about how HP has transformed their own internal systems to be move efficient agile, etc. This is a direct selling point to enterprises where they san say, we’ve learned how to do this transformation ourselves, here’s how we can help you (for a price) achieve the same thing. All the focus seems to be on enterprise customers so they are trying to get their message out loud and clear that they can help you with all your problems.

Bill Veghte who is SVP of the Enterprise Group was up next talking about exactly this, enterprises they are helping move off mainframes on x86 or with Windows 2003 EOL. Bill also talked about the impressive announcement about HP Apollo, High Performance Computing with 250 Terraflops per rack a 4 fold increase on what they had before.

David Scott, ex CEO of 3PAR was then up on the big stage talking about the same storage we had been discussing in the Coffee Talk.

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The Keynote then shifted to  converged infrastructure and cloud bringing on executives from a number of customers to talk about how they are leveraging HP Helion which is the OpenStack offering from HP.

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Robert Youngjohns, EVP HP Software Data took the stage and presented about all the clever stuff HP Autonomy is doing gathering and analysing all that Machine Data, Human Information & Business Data despite an $8B write down after they bought it. I had a great practical application of sifting through Tripadvisor comments bubbling up relevant comments as a big data problem so you can see the highlights and themes across all of the comments.

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Art Gillian, HP Security was up next talking about the biggest baddest Big Data problem which is security and HPs Attala solutions for HP Secure Encryption and also cloud security encryption.

photo 4 (4) Mike Nefkens, EVP Enterprise Services was up last talking about how Enterprise Services bring together all the other parts of HP and how they can help you run your IT better. Boring but I suppose important in Hp being the answer to all your problems.

Next up was the opening reception with drinks and nibbles and then all the bloggers headed to a Brazilian Churrascuria restaurant. The eat as much meat as you can theme challenge was gratefully accepted. Had a great chances to speak to bloggers and HP people about converged infrastructure and many other things.

HP payed for travel and accommodation to attend HP Discover but didn’t pay a penny for me to write anything good or bad about them.

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