HPE’s New Global Partner Head Talks GreenLake, Biggest Priorities And As-A-Service Future

In an exclusive CRN interview, HPE’s new worldwide partner leader, Simon Ewington, explains his three biggest priorities, the future of GreenLake and the massive importance of HPE’s upcoming Partner Ready Vantage program.

With decades of channel experience under his belt, Simon Ewington is preparing to take Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s partner ecosystem to the next level through his bullish vision of driving more platform-based offers and as-a-service margin via its new Partner Ready Vantage program.

“We’re essentially going to move from a Capex-only solution to Capex-plus-SaaS through our GreenLake Cloud Services platform,” said Ewington, HPE’s new vice president of worldwide channel and partner ecosystem, in an interview with CRN. “Our focus is on repeatability of platform-based offers.”

HPE’s new global leader will be responsible for leading the company’s massive partner ecosystem team that includes both worldwide channels and ecosystem as well as the HPE GreenLake partner ecosystem.

[Related: HPE Discover 2023: 10 New HPE GreenLake Services]

Ewington told CRN it was a “dream come true” to become the global leader of HPE’s channel and partner ecosystem as the roughly $28 billion tech giant begins to merge those two ecosystems together under one organization.

“Having it in one place, under the ownership of one leader, really makes sure that we are engaging with the partner community in a simple way irrespective of how they’re developing their business or at the stage of development they’re at,” said Ewington.

Simon Ewington’s HP And HPE Career

Before jumping into CRN’s exclusive interview with HPE’s new global leader, it is key to know that Ewington has been with HPE and HP for 27 years.

He has held several international management positions, including distribution and channel sales leader EMEA. Ewington also led the graphics solutions business at HP, managing a significant volume of channel-led business. Most recently he served as vice president of worldwide distribution at HPE where he empowered distributors to further monetize and embrace as-a-service selling strategies.

In an interview with CRN, Ewington explains his vision and strategy to grow HPE partner sales, better enable the channel to leverage HPE innovation, what he thinks of Dell Technologies’ revamped partner-first strategy for storage, and much more.

What are your biggest priorities as HPE’s new global leader, and what is your vision for your partner ecosystem?

The mantra we have for the channel is we want to be simpler as a vendor, we want to drive profitable growth, and at the same time, we want to drive a best-in-class experience. There are three priorities that we have for FY 2024 and moving forward.

The first is trying to leverage our innovation better. Second is how do we turn that innovation into growth for the partner community? Then lastly, how do we strive to deliver the best end-to-end partner experience in the industry, which is where I think we’ve got some room to maneuver. So essentially, those are the three elements that we’re going to focus on.

Our company is built on the channel. We have a history of partnering that goes back 20 or 30 years. The channel is front and center to everything that we do.

So a good example, I’m very fortunate to work for a company whose CEO [Antonio Neri] spends as much time as he does engaging with and focusing on the channel. Because if the channel is not successful, if the channel doesn’t find us attractive as a vendor, if the channel doesn’t find us simple to engage with, and if the channel partner community doesn’t see us as a profitable vendor—then our businesses is in long-term jeopardy.

Can you break down those top priorities as you officially take over?

On innovation, we are in the process of what we call a journey to one. That is driving a journey to one integrated platform, which is the GreenLake Cloud Services platform. One unified customer experience through that platform, and then a portfolio of solutions and services under one brand.

If we look at the platform, there are two things that we’re trying to do.

The first is to make the platform attractive to all partner archetypes. Particularly, archetypes where we have maybe been underpenetrated in the past. For example, MSPs or CSPs who are looking to use the platform to manage their customer environments. … The platform is essentially going to be the experience for all HPE customers. Whether you want to buy Capex or Opex—you’ll have that same experience of managing your estate through the GreenLake Cloud Services platform.

Then secondly, when we look at our as-a-service offerings, we’re trying to simplify it. We’ve been pretty successful with driving GreenLake solutions into the market, now called Flex Solutions. In order to scale faster, we need to innovate on the platform and have platform-based offers.

Because the great thing about our Flex Solutions, or GreenLake Classic, is that you can customize it. The bad thing about HPE GreenLake Classic or Flex Solutions is that you can customize it. If you’re customizing constantly, it’s very difficult to drive scale. So one of the ways we’re trying to drive innovation is by having platform-based offers that can be transacted and managed through the platform. … Our focus is on repeatability of platform-based offers.

Where do you see the greatest potential to add new partners and drive GreenLake sales?

The strategy has evolved. The Greenlake platform is essentially the experience that we’re going to give to all of our customers.

What you’re going to see as we move forward is whether or not you want to buy Capex or Opex, the experience you’re going to have is through the GreenLake Cloud Services platform. We’re essentially going to move from a Capex-only solution to Capex-plus-SaaS through our GreenLake Cloud Services platform.

So if you’re looking to buy a ProLiant Gen 11 server, when you buy a server, you will have access to Ops Manager, which is the way of managing a compute state wherever it sits in the world through the GreenLake Cloud Services platform. [For example] whether you’re buying block storage as-a-service, Flex Solutions or classic GreenLake, or you’re buying a Gen 11 server with [Nutanix] Calm—the experience for you is going to be the GreenLake Cloud Services platform.

This is about the journey to one. It’s going to be one customer experience for all of our customers. I think that’s probably the biggest opportunity.

Then secondly, we talked about the distributors. As we automate our platform-based offers, it opens up an opportunity for lots of smaller partners to transact through our distributors and through the cloud marketplaces of those distributors.

Dell recently said it was moving to a partner-led storage strategy in which it will pay direct sales reps more to move storage sales through the channel. What is the biggest difference between HPE’s channel commitment and strategy versus Dell?

We don’t feel the need to adjust our strategy [because of Dell]. We are channel-neutral in all of our businesses including compute, storage and at the edge with the majority going to the channel. So there’s no need to change because we have been channel-centric. We were built on the channel, and our future will continue to be built on the channel.

I don’t really want to talk about a competitor, but what I would say is we’ve always been a channel-centric company. It’s two-thirds of our revenue. Two-thirds of our revenue has been through the channel for decades.

When we look at that mantra of simple, profitable, predictable—predictability is sometimes more important than profitability. What I mean by that is partners want stable engagement. They want to understand that we have clear rules of engagement with the channel, we follow those flawlessly, and we don’t surprise them. So predictability is one of the things channel partners say is one of the reasons that they like to work with HPE.

Essentially, there is not a lot of need for us to adapt because we’re already channel-centric and we’re already predictable. It was an interesting announcement though.

What do partners need to do today to ensure the greatest profitability within the upcoming HPE Partner Ready Vantage? What should they be doing right now?

For Partner Ready Vantage, we’re opening up a lot of our own IP, opening up a lot of our tools, and we’re giving them to our channel partners. We want to have one as-a-service program that partners can engage with us on, irrespective of what their business model is, and provide more margin-rich opportunities for them to engage in the future.

It’s all about services. Partners are very keen to attach their services, their IP, to a vendor solution. With Partner Ready Vantage, we’re giving them that opportunity. That’s the area that partners are most excited about, the ability to take our industry-leading technology—the GreenLake Cloud Services platform, our as-a-service portfolio, and wrap them on their own margin-rich services supported by our tools and our IP. That’s essentially, in essence, what we’re trying to do with Partner Ready Vantage.

We are putting together a program that allows partners to operate across one, two or all three tracks. Whether or not they want to build solutions, which is more around ISVs; whether or not they want to sell, which is where the majority of our business has been; or whether or not they want to manage— partners potentially could engage with us in one, two or all three of those tracks.

Our tracks equate to sort of business models. We have our Centers of Expertise, which essentially equate to practices to things like managed services or professional services or customer success. Then we have competencies that sit underneath those Centers of Expertise, which equate to specific solution areas.

We really want to make sure that we open up all of the opportunity through Partner Ready Vantage, that we’re going to grandfather pretty much all of our partners who have sold as-a-service solutions over the past few years into Partner Ready Vantage on Nov. 1.

What opportunities and what is the potential for HPE partners in terms of online marketplaces?

The opportunity for our partners is that they get access to a massive catalogue of solutions and services that our distributors can aggregate, manage and build for them in one place. They’re almost becoming like the supermarket of as-a-service offers and solutions.

For us, there’s a massive opportunity to simplify our as-a-service offerings and make sure they can be transacted through those distribution marketplaces. So we’re working with most of the global distributors to make sure that we’re present, and more importantly, that we can transact automatically in the future to make the whole process of from ‘quote to cash’ as simple as possible. This is to make sure that we can drive that repeatability.

Because what we want them doing is driving multiple iterations and doing multiple sales on our as-a-service platform. And that can be achieved through the distribution marketplaces.

Distributors are not going anywhere. They’re evolving.

What are the biggest advantages of bringing together the channel and the partner ecosystem under one organization?

The biggest opportunity is the fact that partner types are almost molding right now. They’re sort of integrated because it’s very difficult to label a partner. In the old days, you would have a value-added reseller who it was very clear what they did: They sold technology solutions to their customers. And then we had global systems integrators and SIs, and we have the service provider community.

The reality is, as the industry continues to evolve you’re ending up with partners who have multiple archetypes, multiple personas. So our traditional value-added resellers are developing MSP capabilities. The global systems integrators are doing sell-to as well as sell-through.

Having it in one place under the ownership of one leader really makes sure that we are engaging with the partner community in a simple way—irrespective of how they’re developing their business or at the stage of development they’re at.