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HPE-Cray Deal Will Drive HPC Sales Through GreenLake, Partners Say

‘As far as partners go, being able to offer large HPC or supercomputer environments as-a-Service and have them funded in the GreenLake program I think can open up new practices for partners,’ says Worth Davis, executive vice president and chief technology officer at Computex Technology Solutions.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s $1.3 billion definitive agreement to acquire supercomputing superstar Cray Inc. is sure to open up new high performance HPE GreenLake pay-per-use opportunities for partners in hot markets like machine learning and artificial intelligence, partners told CRN.

HPE said one of the key benefits of the blockbuster deal – which is expected to close by the first quarter of HPE’s fiscal year 2020 -- will be new future high performance compute (HPC) as-a-Service opportunities through its fast growing HPE GreenLake pay-per-use business.

“For a customer, the ability to put a couple of thousand nodes of a Cray on site through a GreenLake consumption will be pretty cool,” said Worth Davis, executive vice president and chief technology officer at Computex Technology Solutions, a Houston-based HPE partner. “You’ll be able to handle some (high performance machine learning/artificial intelligence) burstable workloads without having to invest in the largest environment possible.”

[Related: Nutanix And HPE Partners Ready To Take On Dell VMware In HCI]

The GreenLake model is sure to give HPE a price advantage in the supercomputer market, said Davis. ”That’s a great strategy,” he said. “As far as partners go, being able to offer large HPC or supercomputer environments as-a-Service and have them funded in the GreenLake program I think can open up new practices for partners.”

Seattle-based Cray provides supercomputing systems and its Shasta series platform that have the ability to handle massive data sets, AI, converged modeling, simulation, and analytics workloads. In addition to supercomputers, they offer high-performance storage, low-latency high performance HPC interconnects, a full HPC system software stack and programming environment, data analytics, and AI solutions – all currently delivered through integrated systems.

Cray, which posted $456 million in revenue for its most recent fiscal year, is widely credited with a leading share in the top 100 supercomputer installations around the globe.

“A lot of people pay attention to the top 100 supercomputing lists and what agency or government or research facility has the fastest,” said Davis. “Cray’s been around forever and is very well known in the industry. It’s really one of the pinnacle environments around supercomputing as well as really how AI is going to get implemented and used.”

Raymond Tuchman, CEO of Experis Technology Group, one of HPE's top enterprise partners, said the Cray deal could be a big boost to the GreenLake pay-per-use consumption model.

“More and more clients are interested in the consumption model,” Tuchman said. “We just did a presentation to 11 new clients on SimpliVity on GreenLake and every one of them was excited about the consumption model. HPE has a big lead in pay-per-use but still needs to make it easier to adopt and execute in the midmarket.”

Tuchman said customers are looking for GreenLake to be as quick and simple as provisioning a workload on AWS or Azure. “Customers like the fact that with GreenLake all of the various hardware, software and maintenance contracts are all built into the GreenLake model. They just want to run their business. They don’t want to worry about are they running out of capacity or if there support contracts are expiring. They just want to think about running their business,” he said.

HPE’s doubling down on HPC infrastructure with the big data analytics becoming more important in edge computing environments, said Tuchman. “You’re going to need a Cray in your car to stop on a dime,” he said. “There is a big opportunity to provide supercomputing capabilities at the edge with machine learning and artificial intelligence.”

Cray recently announced an Exascale supercomputer contract for over $600 million for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The company was also part of an award with Intel for the first U.S. Exascale contract from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, with Cray’s portion of the contract valued at over $100 million.

HPE said it expects to enhance its customer base with a complementary footprint in federal business and education markets as well as its ability to accelerate commercial supercomputing adoption.

Partners said the Cray acquisition is yet another example of HPE CEO Antonio Neri betting big on innovation with blockbuster deals that include high-performance compute maker SGI, hyperconverged infrastructure provider SimpliVity, AI predictive analytics flash storage standout Nimble, and AI big data as-a-Service superstar BlueData.

“HPE is putting their acquisition wallet to work with innovation,” said Davis. ”Cray is a big acquisition. This is really interesting. With Cray’s [$456 million] revenue and their 1,300 employees – I think it’s a good deal. HPE’s really showing a willingness to innovate through acquisitions.”

HPE shares were up 25-cents in midday trading to $14.80 per share following news of the acquisition.

Additional reporting by Steve Burke

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