Keith White On Why He Is Leaving HPE, Dell Apex And Why The ‘Sky Is The Limit’ For The HPE GreenLake Ecosystem

Hewlett Packard Enterprise GreenLake As-A-Service Transformation Superstar Keith White goes one on one with CRN on why he is leaving HPE, why Dell Technologies’ Apex as a service offering is “not even close” to GreenLake and why the “sky is the limit” for HPE GreenLake ecosystem partners.

Former HPE GreenLake Chief Keith White says the future is bright for the GreenLake on premise pay per use cloud service with “massive” opportunity ahead for partners.

“I feel like the sky is the limit for our partner ecosystem” said White, who is stepping down as HPE Executive Vice President at the end of April. “I am excited to see how much they all grow as we go forward. It is going to be an exciting time. I am very confident in the platform. I am very confident in the leadership. And I am very confident in our ecosystem to deliver everything going forward.”

White, a 20 year Microsoft cloud computing superstar who joined HPE in 2019, helped power a GreenLake as a service transformation that now accounts for an annualized as a service revenue run rate that exceeds $1 billion with total contract value of nearly $10 billion.

“There is such an opportunity out there for these (GreenLake) solutions and for what customers are doing,” said White. “There are so many opportunities to build out (GreenLake) solutions. When you sell GreenLake you get this deeper relationship with your customers. You are now part of their business. You are managing their data center. You are managing their (IT) environment. You are managing these solutions for them.”

White said the “opportunity to continue to build” solutions for customers is “significant” for all partners in the ecosystem. “If you want to deliver a solution as a solution provider,if you want to integrate as a systems integrator, if you want to sell,”he said. “What ever you want to do it is significant (opportunity) out there. I feel like the sky is the limit for our partner ecosystem.”

Why are you leaving HPE and what kind of opportunities are you looking at?

If you think about where we are at as a company the timing seems right. GreenLake is now mainstream throughout the company. It is everyone’s job. That is something that I am very proud of being able to bootstrap what we have done and now making it part of everyone’s job.

(HPE CEO) Antonio (Neri) really led that charge. He really said we have got to make this part of what everyone does not just Keith’s division.

For me I am excited to take the learning I had from working at Microsoft and the hyperscalar world and HPE and what we have done with GreenLake and really take those combined experiences and see what the next challenges are. I get to to take that and apply that to the next business and the next opportunity.

I am looking forward to the next challenge. I am excited to take everything I have learned and make that part of what I get to do next.

What kind of opportunities are you going to be looking at going forward?

I would love to be able to run a company end to end. I have learned a lot from the likes of Antonio over these past few years. I would love to become a CEO of a company and be able to lay out a culture, lay out a strategy and scale and grow what is out there is an exciting opportunity.

As I look at some of the larger companies I think there is sort of a CCO (Chief Customer Officer) or COO (Chief Operating Officer) type role for me that could be exciting to take all the things I have learned and apply that to scaling an up and coming business or a large organization.

Finally I have started to talk to folks about becoming a board member to help take all this experience and apply it to companies to help them to change and grow. It is interesting it is not just technology companies that are interested. We are seeing a lot of interest and opportunities from non tech companies. Retail, automotive, you name it, they are trying to move to becoming technology companies and selling recurring revenue and getting those subscription opportunities. So the business model work I have done can apply there as well.

The sky is the limit. The opportunities are out there. I am excited to see what comes next. I will always have a strong love in my heart for HPE and what we have done here and I look forward to seeing the success they will have going forward under Antonio’s leadership.

HPE CEO Antonio Neri

HPE CEO Antonio Neri

What kind of impact did Antonio have on you as a leader?

Massive. He has been such an amazing mentor, friend, leader. I really appreciate what he has done what he trusted me with as I came into the company.

Look at the risk taking. Antonio’s whole bet and vision is how we have to change as a company. To learn from that leadership, to be mentored on a daily basis, to be given direction, to partner with him and learn about his thoughtful approach to running the business was a blessing. He is such a high integrity person with strategic vision and decision making with “Commit and Go!’ and ’Commit and Go’ leadership.

I just feel so fortunate and blessed to have had the opportunity to work closely with him. How he has impacted me both professionally and personally can’t really be measured. I feel very spoiled to have had the opportunity to work with him.

How do you feel about the future of GreenLake for partners?

It’s massive. There is such an opportunity out there for these solutions and for what customers are doing. There are so many opportunities to build out (GreenLake) solutions.

When you sell GreenLake you get this deeper relationship with your customers. You are now part of their business. You are managing their data center. You are managing their (IT) environment. You are managing these solutions for them.

That opportunity to continue to build with our customers is so significant. And it is for all of our partners, whatever type you are. If you want to deliver a solution as a solution provider. If you want to integrate as a systems integrator. If you want to sell. What ever you want to do it is significant (opportunity) out there. I feel like the sky is the limit for our partner ecosystem. I am excited to see how much they all grow as we go forward. It is going to be an exciting time. I am very confident in the platform. I am very confident in the leadership. And I am very confident in our ecosystem to deliver everything going forward.

How do you see GreenLake stacking up as an on premise pay per use cloud service versus Dell Apex?

The strongest way to say it is customers want solutions. They don’t want piecemeal or pieces pulled together. They want solutions and they want those solutions to come from a variety of partners that come together outside of them to deliver that solution. The platform that we have created with HPE GreenLake that has these partner capabilities and the ability for our channel to be able to invoice and manage and do all these things is what customers are looking for.

The reality is we have created a platform and environment for all our partners and the channel to create solutions for our customers before we even get to the customer. The customers don’t want to have to pull all of us together and make this solution. They want it to happen ahead of time.

Look at the great work that (HPE Executive Vice President and CTO) Fidelma (Russo) has done with the platform, that (HPE Senior Vice President and General Manager GreenLake Cloud Solutions) Vishal (Lall) has done to put these things together, that (HPE Executive Vice President and General Manager Storage) Tom (Black) , (HPE Executive Vice President and General Manager of High Performance Computing and AI) Justin (Hotard), and (HPE Executive Vice President and General Manager Compute) Neil (MacDonald) have added and the software components that we have added in with our partners.

Dell is not even close to that piece of it with their Apex solution. Yes there is going to always be competition and customers should always look at what is out there but what we are really seeing is this acceleration of GreenLake ahead of anything that anyone has done.

We knew we were ahead of the game early on, but now it is happening with our customers with their requirements and with who they are choosing as we get into these scenarios. It is all about workloads. It is all about horizontal and vertical workloads. It is all about solutions and it is all about helping optimize those through our partner ecosystem to make that happen.

We have created from day one a partner friendly platform to deliver those.

How critical are the GreenLake ISV ecosystem partnerships like SAP, VMware, Red Hat, Nutanix, Citrix, Suse?

The reality is customers require solutions and the combination of a platform with ISV applications deliver that solution whether that is an SAP environment with SAP, a VDI environment with a Nutanix or a Citrix or an HPC AI environment. All of these ISVs are so critical to what the outcome is from a solutions standpoint. We have built that from day one. This has not been just compute, storage and networking. We have built on that with container services with folks like Red Hat and with virtual machines with folks like VMware. We have also done the bare metal work with Intel, AMD and NVIDIA from a GPU standpoint to make sure that we optimize and get the speed and performance and capabilities for these horizontal and vertical workloads like electronic medical records, VDI, SAP, backup and recovery.

Look at what customers are trying do as they modernize their data centers and as they transform their own companies to drive efficiencies and capabilities with AI and HPC (High Performance Compute).That is where we started and that is what we have built on in order to deliver the platform versus “I am going to do some storage’ or ‘I am going to do some compute.’ That is not what customers are asking for today. That is why you are seeing the channel really grab what we have done. We have also created the APIs for them to be able to plug into so they can take those solutions forward to the dentist office, to the deli, to the garages out there, to whatever the businesses are they are really focused on and bring home. That is what has been so exciting is seeing the momentum of the industry and the ecosystem take that forward.

What are you most proud of as you look back on the three years at HPE?

What I am most proud of I think it has been a maturation of the business to the point that is now a true mainstream scenario. At first we had a few partners that were engaging. To see where those partners that started with us are at today is just amazing. Those relationships we forged were really a key takeaway and something that I will remember most.

Obviously the transformation the company has made end to end is something I will remember from an overall business strategy standpoint, from how we innovate products, to the culture that Antonio and the team have put in place.

Think about Discover last year. All we talked about was GreenLake. We didn’t talk about disk arrays and compute modules. It was all about GreenLake which was exciting.

The third big thing I am super proud of is everything we have done with our customers, the number of customers we have delighted. We have a 96 percent retention rate. So once people are on the platform they stay on and the majority of our new business comes from these customers.

Obviously there are the numbers we talk about: hitting that $1 billion ARR (annualized revenue run rate) mark is significant. The $10 billion TCV (total contract value) mark is significant and the thousands of customers and partners that are now taking this as their own business and moving it forward. It has been fantastic.

What’s the culture of HPE today versus when you joined the company?

I used to joke with folks that I was walking into a scenario where I had to sort of chip away at a lot of calcium buildup that had happened over the last number of years.

We had to get people to think very differently about where the growth is and where the opportunities are at. Seeing that 180 happen was a thrill. And it wasn’t Keith. It was all of us, all of the leadership team, all of the people coming forward and saying here is the direction we need to go. And it all starts with (HPE CEO) Antonio (Neri). He is such a high quality human being. I can’t say enough about what he has done for the company and for me. The learning, mentorship and friendship has been fantastic.

The company at first was sort of all in their silohs. Now what we have done is brought the company together. You will hear us talk about this journey to one, as one company really moving forward with where we are going. I see that. And that is one of the reasons I feel very comfortable stepping away now because the company is in such a great, great spot with fantastic leadership and the culture change that Antonio has led and driven.

How important are the partner relationships that HPE has built to GreenLake’s success?

It’s one of the things I’m most proud of. The partnerships we forged have really accelerated this business forward. Our platform requires partners to deliver these hybrid solutions.

When we started we were all learning together. And that’s what I love about the ecosystem is they were so vocal, they were so specific in what they needed. And they wanted to jointly partner with us to take these things forward. So to see the baseline of we’re selling a little bit of compute as a service or storage as a service to now selling full application solutions, vertical solutions, horizontal solutions, HPC (High Performance Compute), VDI, SAP, electronic medical records. It is just amazing.

It’s great to see the partner community come together because you need ISVs, you need the colos (colocation providers), you need the hyperscalers. We are all running hybrid solutions together. You need the disties and the resellers. You need the integrators. You need the solution providers. It’s a holistic ecosystem that comes together for betterment of our customers. And that is what I think has been most exciting is to see the growth of that and the depth of the relationship and the buy in along with the business growth.

What are the challenges for the channel as you look at the future of GreenLake?

I think the biggest thing for the channel is to continue to get knowledge from their customers on what solutions they require. And then we have got to create much more of these repeatable solutions that they can deliver. Look at what folks like Tech Data-Synnex and are doing. They are picking and bundling these solutions at scale to deliver to the channel so that they can get it out to those customers. The key is to understand what does that customer need and how do you do that in a repeatable fashion so that you can get the most margin, the highest value out of the focus that you have.

We are at a stage now where partners can build those solutions and accelerate their business forward. To me that has been one of the most exciting things to see.

What are the trends you are seeing in 2023 versus when you took the job?

First, it is a hybrid world. And so all customers are saying, “You need to get together hyperscalers and GreenLake and come to me with a hybrid solution.’ So this hybrid cloud opportunity that is out there is significant. So now what’s happening is we are going arm and arm through our channel to these customers to do that.

The second thing is it’s all about the data. And so I’ve seen a lot of partners pop up to do analytics, to do AI, to do machine learning. For me that’s been the most exciting thing because you’re now starting to see people really change their business based on these the data and the analytics that they have.

The third thing that has changed is the explosive growth at the edge. We were sort of dipping our toe in the IoT (internet of things) world and now edge means something very different to everyone. It’s an automobile. It’s a factory floor. It’s a hospital.

It has been really exciting to see those three scenarios change pretty dramatically and our channel now being able to deliver those solutions to our customers so that they can move their businesses forward.

How do you see ChatGPT and the AI opportunity impacting the GreenLake partner proposition?

It’s pretty dramatic. We got in early with our acquisition of Cray four years ago with respect to high performance compute and supercomputing capabilities.

That speed and capability needs to be standardized or brought to the masses so everyone has access to it. So now with an as a service offering, we can provide that to the masses versus ‘Oh, I have to spend millions of dollars on this scenario or millions of dollars on that scenario.’ So I think the AI push that is happening is now giving way to that opportunity that we have with HPC (High Performance Compute) and our supercomputing and AI capability. It’s significant. And I’m excited to see the outcomes from that.