When Hewlett Packard Enterprise President and CEO Antonio Neri last month visited World Wide Technology executives, the conversation naturally revolved around two topics dear to both sides: IT and cars.
WWT recently became the technology partner for Richard Petty Motorsports, and in particular for one of its drivers, Bubba Wallace, said Bob Olwig (pictured far left with Neri), vice president of corporate business development for the St. Louis-based solution provider.
"That's been a fun partnership," Olwig told CRN. "We shared that with Antonio, and he went on to tell us about how they're a technology partner to McLaren with Formula 1, and it was great sharing ideas and the different ways we can go about helping these cars go faster."
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Neri was not at the World Wide Technology headquarters just to talk about increasing race car performance, but also to look at how to increase IT infrastructure performance in the two companies' common customers.
It was a visit that was greatly appreciated by WWT, Olwig said.
"I think it demonstrated, very viscerally, for World Wide, the importance that HPE is placing in the channel and partnerships," he said. "Certainly, World Wide being one of their largest partners, if not their largest partner, we appreciated him coming out to visit us relatively quick after him taking the helm. We were very honored that he wanted to come out and see us first-hand."
The format of the meeting was really a great reflection of Antonio's priorities, Olwig said.
During the first half of the day, Neri spent time with top WWT executives including Olwig and company president Joe Koenig, to learn about the investments the solution provider was making and what was resonating with customers.
Neri also provided his take on strategic initiatives and his priorities, Olwig said. "Continuing to be partner-friendly and building out programs and models to accelerate partnerships was really the top of mind for him," he said. "That was a great exchange: us sharing with him, and him sharing with us his priorities."
During the second half of the day, Neri met with the vice presidents of IT for a half-dozen of WWT's large St. Louis-based customers, Olwig. "It was fun to see Antonio interact with these strategic joint customers," he said.
Since Neri took over HPE, WWT has seen increased investment by HPE in the channel, Olwig said. "During his visit with us, we were very impressed with his orientation towards the channel, the value he sees in the channel providing that customer intimacy and customer knowledge," Olwig said.
Neri also made it clear that he understands that addressing customer requirements require solutions that not only takes the best of HPE technologies, but also incorporates them into architectures that include multiple vendors' products, Olwig said.
Nowhere was that more obvious than when Neri visited WWT's Advanced Technology Center and executive briefing center inside the company's new seven-story global headquarters building.
While there, Neri couldn't help but see not only HPE equipment, but racks of equipment from competitors such as Cisco, NetApp, and Dell EMC, Olwig said.
"He definitely understands that customers look to World Wide to be an independent multi-vendor provider," he said. "The real world is, there is no one technology provider that is going to solve all the problems that a customer has. Some of our best customers that we jointly share are being served by technologies from multiple partners that we work with. But there's no doubt: The rivalries are still strong."
Neri actually seemed quite impressed with WWT's Advanced Technology Center, Olwig said.
"I think he walked away with some new ideas for the new corporate headquarters building that he's designing [for HPE]," he said. "It was fun comparing notes on what kind of experience both companies were trying to generate as we brought customers to our corporate headquarters."
While Neri's visit to WWT cemented the two companies' relationship, that relationship continues to be driven by a need to better serve business customers, Olwig said.
HPE is one of a handful of top strategic partners of WWT, and both HPE's core innovations and a number of key acquisitions including Nimble Storage, SimpliVity, Aruba, and Plexxi, have reflected HPE's core strategy of focusing on enterprise data center and cloud solutions, Olwig said.
HPE's May acquisition of Plexxi, a developer of software-defined networking, is a good example not only of the importance HPE places on developing software-defined infrastructures, but also meshes well with some of WWT's own strategic initiatives, Olwig said.
He cited WWT's 2015 acquisition of agile software developer Asynchrony, which has since grown its developer headcount to about 500 people. While much of what that organization's focus is on public and private cloud devops, it also looks at software-defined infrastructure and infrastructure as code for on-premises deployments, he said.
"As HPE invests in companies like Plexxi, those APIs are exposing IT infrastructure, the hardware, as code that then allows devops to work more efficiently," he said. "The more exposed as code the APIs, the more devops can be in software and IT integration. … Developers are going to be able to consume those APIs in their workflows."
HPE's September acquisition of Cloud Technology Partners, a cloud services consulting and advisory capability that is becoming part of HPE's PointNext services, has given channel partners new ways to help businesses consume IT, Olwig said.
"[This] reflects HPE's desire to be a leader in new consumption models and providing almost everything as a service to customers," he said. "HPE is investing in on-premises consumption models like GreenLake Flex Capacity that offer customers the best of both worlds: public cloud-like consumption models but with on-prem advantages."
WWT has also found HPE's PointNext services capabilities a good way to augment its own professional services business, Olwig said.
"Because HPE has such a broad portfolio, they sometimes have a better positioning of those resources in that local market than we would have," he said. "It's about efficiency: having the right resources at the right locale for some deployments."