Whitman: 'Composable' Synergy Infrastructure Is Biggest Hewlett Packard Enterprise Breakthrough In Last Decade

Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman says the company's new "composable" Synergy architecture, which is aimed at leapfrogging converged infrastructure from the likes of Nutanix and Cisco, is the biggest breakthrough from the company in the last decade.

"This is as revolutionary a product as we have introduced probably in the last decade," said Whitman in an interview with CRN ahead of the public announcement which came Tuesday at the company's Discover Conference in London. "It has been a little bit of a long time coming because back under one of my predecessors this didn't get the funding it should have from an R&D perspective. So we have been pouring money into this."

[Related Video: Inside HPE's New Class of Hybrid Architecture, 'Synergy']

Whitman says the new architecture, which has been in development for years in Hewlett Packard Enterprise Labs under the code name Thunderbird, "changes the name of the game" in the infrastructure market. "We have had this in beta with customers, and they are super-excited about it," she said.

The new unified architecture is being billed as the first ever designed to bridge traditional and cloud-native applications into fluid resource pools that can be deployed at "cloud speed." That could eliminate the big advantage that Amazon Web Services has had over internal IT departments that have struggled to provision workloads instantly like AWS can.

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At the heart of the Synergy infrastructure, which will be available starting in the second quarter next year, is a set of open APIs that bring software intelligence to deploying workloads based on the business demands of the application. Hence the term "composable" infrastructure.

Solution providers, for their part, said the new infrastructure is sure to put pressure on hyperconverged stalwarts like Nutanix and infrastructure providers like Dell-EMC and Cisco which have yet to clearly lay out next-generation hyperconverged infrastructure road maps.

John Iacone, the founder and CEO of International Integrated Solutions (IIS), No. 121 on the 2015 CRN Solution Provider 500 and one of the most respected enterprise infrastructure providers in the country, called the new architecture a "game changer" that only one or two companies in the world could bring to the market.

"HP owns 99 percent of the technology in this composable infrastructure – all the hardware and software to make it happen," he said. "What you are talking about is redefining the data center to be a true utility: instantly building out infrastructure to run applications at different times and taking away infrastructure when it is not required and giving it to other applications that require it. This infrastructure knows and understands what the workload requirements are, and it is expandable or decomposable. If this works seamlessly it is going to be a huge breakthrough."

Iacone sees the new infrastructure giving a shot in the arm to infrastructure providers like IIS and even posing problems for AWS – which he sees as facing a backlash of sorts from customers who have seen their bills rise as they have put more workloads into the cloud. "We see customers looking to bring stuff back from the cloud and move more toward a hybrid model," said Iacone. "They started in the cloud with a few workloads and added over time to that, and are now seeing enormous bills. They have gone from thousands a month into hundreds of thousands of month, and they are locked into proprietary environments that they can't necessarily get out of easily. The beauty of the HPE composable infrastructure is applications become intelligent with regard to compute, storage and fabric requirements."

Iacone says there is a lot of customer education and drill down that must be done in order to communicate the power of HPE Synergy. Nevertheless, he said, HPE has a significant leg up on competitors, particularly Dell and EMC, which are facing questions with regard to product road map in the wake of Dell's $67 billion proposed acquisition of EMC. "I see HP having a two- to three-year advantage over Dell-EMC, which faces a year or two of worrying about how to consolidate," he said.

Mike Vencel, executive vice president of Comport Consulting Corp., Ramsey, NJ, No. 457 on the CRN SP500, says he sees a big opportunity for HPE to take share from Dell-EMC in the wake of the unclear product road map as a result of the blockbuster deal.

"HPE is delivering a crystal-clear message and vision as to what their go-forward strategy is and what their platform is going to look like at the same time customers are asking what products are going to be there if Dell and EMC do eventually merge. How is Dell-EMC going to rationalize the product set with account teams? We have never felt better about the way Hewlett Packard Enterprise is positioned in the market."

Vencel credited HPE's Whitman for driving an innovation renaissance during her four-year tenure with hefty investments in R & D that are now paying off in breakthrough offerings like Synergy. "HPE is on the front end of the innovation curve, with competitors playing catch up," he said.

One of the most striking elements of Synergy is the open APIs which are going to allow any and all applications to connect directly to the composable framework, said Vencel. "That is going to allow business units to directly deploy apps without having to go to IT to get what they need," he said. What's more, Vencel pointed out, Synergy is integrated with all of the cutting edge application development tools and environments, including Puppet, Chef and Docker.

Comport Consulting, recently recognized as 2015 Top U.S. HP Enterprise Sales Growth Partner by Arrow Electronics, is using the Synergy announcement to hammer home to customers the innovation advantage that HPE has in the infrastructure market, said Vencel.

Paul Miller, vice president of marketing at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, says Synergy trumps competitors with a smarter and more intelligent application environment than any and all competitive architectures. "We have built fluid pools for any workload and then made the entire infrastructure programmable – the compute, fabric and storage – whether it is running in a SAN (Storage Area Network) , DAS (Direct Attached Storage) or NAS (Network Attached Storage)," he said.

Synergy opens up new opportunities for solution providers to provide programmable intelligent infrastructures with a robust double-digit margin model, said Miller. "Solution providers get to control the compute, fabric and storage, enabling them to have a richer sale," he said.

HPE has developed templates that solution providers will be able to use to customize applications for customers whether they are on-premise or off-premise, he said. Some solution providers will likely use the platform to become service providers themselves. "We see this enabling partners to act like a cloud giant providing fluid pools," said Miller. "You can deploy at cloud speeds."

Ultimately HPE expects Synergy to foster an ecosystem of partners all building infrastructure services with the technology. "This changes the face of partners in the data center," he said. "It allows them to have workload conversations with customers."