Five questions on Data and Cloud with Joe Pemberton

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    HPE Industry Insight – Five questions on | Data and Cloud with Joe Pemberton

    The race against data is on. The amount of data created, consumed, and stored worldwide currently sits at around 120 zettabytes, and is expected to reach 181 zettabytes by 2025.¹ With this vast accumulation of data comes new responsibilities, challenges, and, inevitably, innovation.

    One of the leaders within this space are Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), who offer both cloud and on-prem storage, backup, and security solutions. We had the chance to sit down with Joe Pemberton, the UK Cloud and Data Partner Lead at HPE, and discuss recent developments in data use and storage. We covered:

    • What hybrid cloud systems look like in 2023 and how they are expected to change.
    • How HPE GreenLake Cloud Services are transforming the on-premise storage and backup experience.
    • Why HPE GreenLake? How is it different from other solutions?
    • Why companies are de-clouding and undergoing digital transformation.
    • How data growth and use is set to evolve over the next five years.

    Below, we’ve recorded an edited transcript of our conversation.

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    A Discussion with HPE Cloud and Data Partner Lead Joe Pemberton 

    Nexstor: Thank you very much for your time, Joe. So for a bit of an intro, can you just introduce yourself and your background at HPE? You’ve had a couple of interesting roles.

    Joe: My name is Joe Pemberton, I lead the cloud and data partners within the HPE channel team. We’ve identified 24 partners, of which Nexstor are a key one, to drive forward the HPE message on HPE GreenLake and HPE GreenLake for storage. I’ve been in the company for five years now. I was a storage specialist, and after a couple of years I got the privilege to lead the storage specialist team. As of November, I now lead the data and cloud partner business managers.

    Q1: What does the hybrid cloud mean to you?

    Nexstor: The purpose of today is to give IT industry peers a bit more of an insight into what’s on the minds of HPE management and senior managers such as yourself. So I’d like to ask you five questions about data and the cloud, as that’s what your role focuses on.

    Question number one is: A lot of Hewlett Packard Enterprise marketing centres around hybrid cloud and edge-to-cloud  — and I know HPE themselves take great pride in being a leader in this space. What does hybrid cloud in this context mean to you? 

    Joe: HPE believes that hybrid cloud is the way that the IT world will go. In 2018, our CEO Antonio Neri was on stage at ‘Discover’, Las Vegas, the annual conference that we do. He said there that the world will be hybrid. That was his bet, and he’s based the company around the view that infrastructure will be hybrid. There will be applications that are right for the cloud, and there will be applications and workloads which will have to stay on-premise for reasons of security or transportability. We saw a long time ago that the hybrid cloud would be where most people end up — and that seems to have panned out.

    We see that with a lot of sizing tools. For example, with CloudPhysics, which is an acquisition HPE made a couple of years ago. CloudPhysics will run an assessment that allows you to see which workloads are right for the cloud. We won’t necessarily pitch for that business if Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Google Cloud is the right choice, and that allows us to provide value to the customer. But in most cases, we see that a lot of the workloads end up being hybrid — being on-site, but with a cloud-like experience.

    You mentioned edge-to-cloud as well. It’s not the bit that I focus on, but it’s very big for the company. A year later in 2019, Antonio Neri was back at ‘Discover’ Las Vegas, and announced a $5 billion investment in the edge, and very recently HPE announced an acquisition within the 5G space. What’s clear is that there’s data coming from all angles, and to bring it into the core is an expensive and time-consuming task. If you can look through the data as it comes in at the edge and process what’s needed and dismiss what’s not required, customers can bring valuable data in without being totally consumed by useless information. 

    Nexstor: Yeah. I think gone are the days where there’s one data centre that everything goes into. We see and work with a lot more customers that focus less on sites in the UK, and more on global data, and it makes sense for them to land the data as close to its origin as possible. As we know, the longer the storage latency, the longer it takes to land that data, the slower the overall user experience is. 

    You mentioned how CloudPhysics actually maps existing workloads to different use cases and shows the customer what they’re looking for from a cost point of view. I think HPE is the only vendor that is giving that analysis and information back to a customer without necessarily biasing a single-track solution. A lot of other vendors will just say, ‘here’s your workload and here’s what you can do on our kit’, whereas HPE are embracing that hybrid cloud.

    Joe: I think you’re right. What’s clever about it is that we can input prices from AWS or Microsoft Azure in real time — that data is publicly available, so if prices go down, we can reflect that, and if prices go up, we can reflect that. So it does give customers a genuine, best estimate on what that workload would look like, in a cloud experience with hyperscalers, or in a cloud-like experience but on-prem with HPE.

    Nexstor: Customers really value that because the first question whenever they look at any solution or product is, ‘how much is it?’ and ‘is it in our ballpark?’. I think CloudPhysics lends itself well to positioning HPE and our value as a partner.

    Suggested reading: Read our blog, ‘Hybrid Cloud Architecture Explained’ to learn more about what hybrid clouds can look like.

    Q2: Why HPE GreenLake? How will it benefit HPE and its customers? 

    Nexstor: Second question: we’ve seen HPE GreenLake around for a couple of years now. But I think over the last six months, we’re seeing HPE expand that platform quite rapidly, and I think we’re expecting quite a lot this year. How will the HPE GreenLake platform benefit HPE and its customers?

    Joe: Okay, so let’s start with customers. Customers are at the heart of everything we do, and from day one they always have to think of growth. Traditionally, HPE would sell more disks than the customer required because it would have to have some headroom in it. That’s not great for customers, because if they’re growing at 10% or 20%, and they’re adding a certain amount of disk capacity into storage or more compute capacity into servers, they’re not using it. So from a customer’s perspective, using HPE GreenLake gives them scalable, predictable, workloads, with performance that they have right-sized. 

    We have buffers included, which customers don’t pay for. So it’s not like they need to be waiting for a supply chain to catch up on any incremental changes to disk capacity or server capacity — that buffer is included. As customers burst into it, we charge whatever they use. That’s quite a revolutionary model in the infrastructure space. Customers might be familiar with it from a managed print perspective on the other side of the IT ecosystem, but in terms of infrastructure, HPE seems to really be leading the space. Customers, from what I hear through our channel, seem to really enjoy that message. It’s based on subscription, it’s predictable, they can scale up, and they can also scale down, there’s just a minimum commit that’s included — it’s flexible. It’s really, really flexible.

    From a HPE perspective, what’s great is that it provides predictable revenue for the business. So right now, as we’re speaking, the economy looks shaky. A recession may or may not be in its way. Spend may be tightened slightly, perhaps as a customer decides to put off a purchase.

    We’ve just come out of an excellent year of IT spend — HPE’s had a cracking year, which is brilliant. Our shareholders are delighted, but what they’re looking for is future revenue. How can we guarantee that customers will keep spending with HPE? The way you do that is with HPE GreenLake.

    Nexstor: I completely agree. From a customer’s perspective, we see a couple of scenarios happening regularly:

    1. We might ask customers what their daily change rate is and what their yearly growth rate is, but they don’t know: it’s very difficult to actually find that information out unless you’re monitoring it. So their storage solution will be potentially oversized by 20-30%.
    2. The other scenario is that the customer has been running on fumes during the last year/s of their IT depreciation strategy, and they’re having to delete data or reduce their administration costs to manage their storage platform for that final year. And this is the problem with provisioning IT — we’re asked to provide a solution that will last three, four or five years, and we have to over-provision or over-allow based on estimates.

    The great thing about GreenLake is that we can work in real-world, real-time data based on what customers are actually using. From a commercial point of view, this gives customers better control over their costs and what they want to buy. The HPE GreenLake platform, whether it’s compute, storage, backup, DR, or something else, gives customers a cloud-like feel where they can select what they want, when they want it. Do they want it on a flexible basis? Do they want it as a subscription? Do they want it for longer? They can choose. 

    In the past, some strategies have fallen by the wayside because clients don’t know what’s going to happen over the next three or five years, meaning that they couldn’t make a justified investment and couldn’t properly innovate. I think that’s why customers want to see consumption-based pricing like this that is locked-in at the right term for them.

    Joe: Yeah, absolutely. We often sign customers up for three or five year terms based on the finance rate of the day. The last couple of years, we’ve had a great interest rate, and customers are locked in securely to that. Now in the last few months where interest rates have risen, customers that have invested in HPE GreenLake are protected.

    From a power and cooling cost perspective as well, this kind of pricing structure is perfect. Customers don’t have to power and keep extra disks or servers online that aren’t being used. Savings in energy and cooling have always been a good thing, but with the costs now as they are, it’s a huge benefit to be able to reduce that bill for power and cooling.

    Suggested reading: Read our blog, ‘Disaster Recovery vs Business Continuity’, to discover how an effective storage and backup solution can improve business performance.

    Q3: Have you seen a reduction in cloud-first journeys or strategies?

    Nexstor: So onto question number three. Although we’ve seen more of our customers embracing cloud technologies for backup, specifically for workload hosting, we’re starting to hear less and less about cloud-first journeys or strategies. Do HPE see this also, and why do you think that is?

    Joe: Generally, yes, I think cloud-first strategies are fewer and further between now. Some customers that have significantly invested in ongoing consultancy to start that journey are doing their damnedest to get there. We’re having lots of conversations with customers that are de-clouding. They went onto the cloud, and it was a good experience in terms of the actual management experience, but the ever-increasing costs and the egress charges to get data back out of these hyperscaler platforms was not really something they realised when they signed up. So we’ve had a whole load of customers looking to de-cloud, and the answer is almost always the same: they went for the experience, they’re leaving because of the prohibitive cost.

    We have a hybrid strategy, and we accept that not every single customer needs to be on an HPE server or HPE storage platform. Customers want choice and flexibility, and we think that HPE GreenLake is a great middle ground there, where people get a cloud-like experience, but that on-prem feeling of comfort and security.

    Nexstor: I think you touched on it there, a lot of customer pain points are based on consumption. One scenario that we often see with customers is: ‘this project has just been thrown at me, I need a resource now — I can’t go down through my partner, I can’t go and ask whichever vendor they’re working with for that platform because then I’ve got to get into five different meetings, get sized, and then wait three, four, five, six months, for kit to turn up’. Before HPE GreenLake was a platform, it was never really possible to easily size systems based on actual consumption and need — so many customers naturally stuck their data into the Cloud, because it was there ready and waiting.

    The potential with HPE GreenLake from an experience point of view is for consolidating or making the on-premise environment more efficient. Rather than sending customers an array that starts at 20 terabytes, we can give them a solution that’s fit to start delivering 14 terabytes — exactly what they need — but then when new workloads come on board, they can go and provision it straight away from buffer capacity. HPE then go and sort out what’s required to replace the buffer in the background, without customer cost or delay.

    Joe: The last year or so it’s been really challenging from a supply chain perspective. It’s not HPE exclusively; it’s been across the whole industry. A lot of customers have recognised that they need to buy more infrastructure, and they want to place business with HPE and our partners — which is great, and we appreciate it — but our supply chain hasn’t been there, and it’s let us down. 

    A huge benefit of HPE GreenLake Central is it’s all centrally known and managed, and the GreenLake Cloud Platform gives a centralised experience. But also, from HPE’s perspective, we get a look at how the customers’ data is growing, and we can be ready for upscaling. So we’re not taken by surprise if suddenly lots of customers want to buy lots of storage from us — we’re not overwhelmed by the demand because we know it’s coming. And we can shape our supply chain for that so that customers aren’t waiting: it will arrive when it’s required, and it will be billed when it’s used.

    Nexstor: And this is why I think HPE GreenLake is so much more than just a procurement mechanism. It’s the service element that’s important, the meetings each month with the HPE services team to understand growth. So when a workload does come across, and a project needs to come onboard within a set timescale, HPE takes responsibility for provisioning that infrastructure resource, so it’s ready for when the customer needs it, rather than being reactive. 

    Joe: Yes, exactly. And it’s meant to be an ongoing conversation. Some infrastructure companies have been guilty in the past of being very available and friendly when a customer has to buy something, winning the order, and then disappearing for three years or five years, or however long the customer is looking to use that storage array or that server portfolio for. Then suddenly they’re back again five years later, after they’ve been missing the whole time.

    The idea with HPE is that it’s a constant conversation, and HPE are always on hand, available, to assist with customer needs. As a company, it makes sense to do that, because we’re closer to the customer, we can identify opportunities, and also we can add value in other areas.

    Pro-tip: Read our blog on cloud-based data storage to learn more about the differences between the cloud, on-prem, and hybrid solutions. 

    Q4: Why will data become so important in the modern world?

    Nexstor: Data is such a huge subject within our industry, but also we’re seeing it more globally within businesses — a lot of businesses are now wondering how they can extract value from their data. And that’s where questions around big data challenges, data intelligence, data analytics, AI, which has been around for a couple of years, all come in. Why will data become so important in the modern world?

    Joe: Data will get ever increasingly important. This is a belief held in HPE, from the top all the way down. This is the third time I’m referencing our CEO Antonio Neri, and the third different time I’ve heard him say in different conferences that he believes that one day data will be recorded on a company’s balance sheets. He totally, firmly believes that data is the new currency. In time, companies that are looking to acquire other companies will ask questions, not just about how much money’s in the bank, but about how much data their acquisition has. What are they using it for? What can that unlock for them as an acquirer of a company? We see the growth of data, and we see how AI, machine learning, and our high performance computers can crunch all of that data and put it into meaningful information.

    And data is growing everywhere. We’ve already discussed how data is growing at the edge, data is growing at the core, and also it’s cloud-side as well — in terms of backup and archiving. The more data that you are consuming today, the more needs to be backed up into the archives in the future. So there’s just data growing everywhere.

    As data is becoming increasingly valuable, many companies are concerned about how to store and reduce it: what can you discard? What can you discard at the edge? And how can you minimise those egress charges that the hyperscalers can charge to customers?

    Nexstor: I think data really represents intelligence, because ultimately what we’re using data for nowadays is decision-making. There’s so much data and so much intelligence around that businesses haven’t necessarily understood.

    And we saw how this data could be used during COVID — with respirators, with vaccine distribution. What did the supply chain look like? Where was the demand? What were stocking levels looking like? How did we distribute that? These were all questions that could ultimately be answered through data. The reason data for me is so important is because it can shorten or fast-track decisions. So everything can be done faster, more efficiently, and ultimately cost less.

    Joe: Yeah, absolutely. We’ve recently worked with a police force to support the processing of data around criminal activity and going through the judicial process. So what that means is that criminals are being processed through the criminal justice system quicker, and that the bad people are off the streets. And usually when there’s a crime, there’s a victim associated — so the victim and the victim’s family get justice quicker. That was a really powerful story about how we’ve used some of HPE’s infrastructure solutions powered by HPE GreenLake to make a difference. 

    During the pandemic, we were part of the Nightingale hospitals. Do you remember in London there were those emergency, large spaces that were prepared in case the NHS was overwhelmed? HPE provided the infrastructure for that, HPE used its tracking-billing system in order to make sure that only the right equipment was ordered at the time required.

    The final example I’ll give you is the relationship that HPE has with the Ryder Cup, and how we process spectator on-site data to give people a great fan experience. When people go to the Ryder Cup this year in Rome, the only thing they need to bring with them is their phone. Their phone is their ticket, their phone is their merchandise, their phone is their content, their phone is their cash, their phone is their way to feel connected to Team Europe or to Team America. And that’s done by having infrastructure led by HPE Aruba and HPE GreenLake around the whole stadium and golf course. Utilising data and processing the things that are useful allows the Ryder Cup to monetise it as a business, and give fans a great experience.

    Suggested reading: Our article, ‘5 Ways to Tune Up Your Big Data Storage Strategy’, explores topics of data expansion and storage solutions — read it now to learn more.

    Q5: What are HPE’s expectations around data growth potential over the next five years?

    Nexstor: Final question: over the last few years, data has become more decentralised than ever. When I talk about it being ‘decentralised’, it’s coming away from core infrastructure and into SaaS solutions like Office 365 cloud backup. What are HPE’s expectations around data growth potential over the next five years?

    Joe: I think it wouldn’t be shocking to say we expect data to grow; it’s going to continue to grow and grow and grow. There will be more data that is more meaningful. So how do you use infrastructure, AI, in order to make intelligent decisions based on that? HPE has a good heritage in that. They acquired Nimble about six or seven years ago, and the InfoSight platform was revolutionary in the infrastructure space. Data was being stored in growing quantities, but people were scared to delete it or to do anything with it in case they messed anything up. InfoSight changed all of that, and was able to give IT teams meaningful information about what their company was doing and what data was being stored.

    Looking at the roadmap of what HPE are investing in, I would say that they are not slowing down. HPE expect ever-increasing swathes of data to be accessed and used, and customers want that quicker than ever before. So we’re investing in technology that ensures data is in the hands of people as quickly as it possibly can be, looking at latency, speed of disks, speed of connection, speed all the way from edge to cloud.

    And how can we put that data into the hands of people to give customers an edge over their rivals? How do they use the data they’re receiving in order to take a product to market quicker, in order to upsell to their customers more widely, or in order to improve their supply chain? Or to enhance the experience of their own employees?

    We’ve all become used to having smartphones that give us data instantly — when you go to work and your computer doesn’t give you the data in real time it’s frustrating, because you’re used to that experience as a consumer, and you want the same at your workplace.

    Nexstor: InfoSight is a fantastic example of what we will see from HPE’s and Nexstor’s customers, around how using data will add further relevance to their products, services and offerings to their own customer base.

    I talk a lot about InfoSight for servers — whether we agree or not, HPE servers or Proliant could be described as tin. They’re Broadcom or Intel components stuck together in a frame. Before InfoSight, I think, it was difficult to argue the differences between an HPE server and another vendor’s server, whatever it may be. Whereas with InfoSight, by drawing data and presenting it back to the customer, adds significant value and intelligence to that platform. It elevates the product that HPE sells much higher than the competition because of the data and intelligence it provides has meaningful worth — be it reducing time to fix, or proactively highlighting maintainance tasks.

    Joe: Where the innovation is, as you said, is that layer above. It’s InfoSight — how do you use that data? How do you consume it via HPE GreenLake? What’s the potential that customers can unlock? And that’s why HPE love working with partners like Nexstor, for example, because they’ve got a long heritage of using InfoSight data in order to give customers real value in partnership with HPE, which means that a customer comes back over and over again for value, for service, for advice.

    Nexstor: That’s brilliant, Joe, thanks very much.

    HPE’s partnership with Nexstor

    With over 12 years experience and capability, Nexstor is one of HPE’s most valuable partners. We help businesses find intelligent, efficient, long-term solutions that support their IT systems and protect valuable company data. Nexstor support customers at all and any phase of solution discovery, whether that’s analysis, sizing, demonstration, designing, scope implementation, installation or support.

    We have highly experienced and accredited HPE sales and technical specialists who can consult on the full breath of HPE products and services, including: 

    • HPE Greenlake Platform services
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    • HPC and Proliant Compute solutions
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    To learn more about Nexstor and our partnership with HPE, contact us today.

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    ¹ Total data volume worldwide 2010-2025 | Statista 



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    Troy Platts

    Troy has spent over 20 years helping organisations solve their data, storage and compute conundrums. He is a regular speaker at vendor events and spends any free time he has keeping abreast of advances in data platform technologies. He also makes a mean curry.

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