Dan Belanger: HPE Partners Are ‘Accelerating’ With GreenLake

HPE executive Dan Belanger says the company is seeing robust growth on its GreenLake pay-per-use on premise platform.


Hewlett Packard Enterprise Managing Director North America Dan Belanger says HPE’s big bet on its GreenLake pay-per-use on premise platform is paying off in significant channel sales growth.

“Our growth is almost triple digit if you look at what we are doing (with GreenLake) in North America,” said Belanger in an interview with CRN. “It is a big business to begin with but more and more of our partners are engaging with GreenLake because that is where customers are going. Customers are asking for different ways to improve their cash position to fund their transformation.”

That GreenLake as-a-service business model– which provides a public cloud pay-per-use experience on premise- is in some cases resulting in a 30 percent cost savings in overall customer IT spend along with significant new competitive advantages powered by digital transformation

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HPE has tripled the number of GreenLake business managers in North America working with partners in the field under HPE Vice President and General Manager GreenLake North America Dave Twohy.

Partners, for their part, credited GreenLake with helping drive a significant increase in new account sales pipeline.

The GreenLake focus on saving customers 30 percent on overall IT spend combined with driving IT time to productivity from 133 days to close zero is resonating with customers, said Paul O’Dell, a director at CPP Associates, a Clinton, N.J. HPE Platinum partner. “That is the power of GreenLake,” he said. “Customers are catching on to this. GreenLake provides customers with the best of both worlds – a cloud like experience with on-premise control and governance.”

HPE has a significant first mover advantage in the race to capture the on premise pay per use market, said O’Dell. “None of the competitors have a program even half as good as GreenLake,” he said. “The time for us to strike is now! Our team is fired up to go out and sell GreenLake. Our GreenLake pipeline is growing.”

What kind of channel alignment and sales traction are you seeing in the wake of the sales leadership changes you made to start the new fiscal year?

We moved the organization to be very well aligned with the channel. That started last year. That is done. That is behind us. It’s really about acceleration now.

The really solid thing for us is we have consistency with the channel. Consistency is really important. That continues for us.We are not into a rebuilding mode. We are past the rebuilding and the transformation. We are into accelerating.

The alignment is around what customers continue to ask for at an increasing rate which is consumption and as a service. We started that journey 10 years ago. So where we are now with thepartner community with GreenLake Central is we are accelerating. We have taken a major leap forward with that. As others are trying to figure it out we are on our front feet racing forward.

Our growth is almost triple digit if you look at what we are doing (with GreenLake) in North America. It is a big business to begin with but more and more of our partners are engaging with GreenLake because that is where customers are going. Customers are asking for different ways to improve their cash position to fund their transformation.

How is the channel responding to the new sales structure and channel team?

We have great alignment up and down the channel. The leadership we put in place with (HPE Vice President Channels and Ecosystem) Leslie (Maher), (HPE Vice President and General Manager US Enterprise East Terry (Richardson) , (HPE Vice President Sales US Commercial) Jas (Sood), (HPE Vice President and General Manager Global Accounts) Peter Brennan all have deep roots in the channel with knowledge of how to lead and manage effectively with the channel, but the biggest piece for me is consistency. Our foundation has been built. Now it is about how do we accelerate that.

How big an advantage does HPE have with GreenLake?

The first point we would make is we started GreenLake 10 years ago with Flex Capacity. This is not new. We started to see this trend where customers wanted a utility and on demand models were clunky. Most folks created a leasing structure to try to figure out a way to do what we were doing.

All of the different assets we bought in terms of software and process is the difference with GreenLake. Whether it is through acquisitions or our own organic innovation all the assets within GreenLake make it so you can have a very granular metering of what you are using. That is key. You can literally say I want to do as a service with a container, VM (virtual machine), a piece of networking or storage. The same experience you get in a public cloud is what we provide on prem. That started 10 years ago. It is very difficult for competitors to recognize that customers are moving to this aggressively and then go create it now.

The maturity that we bring to this with partners is critical. Trust me there is a complexity to it.When you go off premise you don’t see the hardware or storage. Most customers on premise want some sort of customization. We have overcome that complexity with different tools that are really robust and mature for the partners to accelerate this consumption experience.

So if you think about it – you kind of have to brute force your way through this to respond to customers and then it becomes easier to do. That is what we have brought to the channel partners. It enables them to run faster because the customers are demanding more and more of this. Customers want to free up cash to fund their transformation. They want to pay for what they use and they want a common experience both on prem and off prem.

GreenLake Central is the big leap forward. The response to that has been tremendous from partner community that has seen it because it covers everything – from seeing what exists off prem and on prem to addressing governance/compliance models. It monitors over 15 different touch points on compliance. You can execute a strategy to bring up containers or virtual machines in your environment. It is a single pane of glass! That is above and beyond what everybody else has. They are just trying to monitor and meter and do it as a service. We have gone beyond that basic principle. And we have made it really easy for our partners to transact. That is what our focus is. It is all about the experience of the partner community so they can run as fast as their customers are demanding them to run.

Talk about the consumption sales conversations that you and partners are having?

Every customer has this issue where 80 cents of every dollar is spent on maintaining their legacy infrastructure. They have all these servers and storage they are running. They know they have to transform the business. They want to figure out how they get agility and speed and still have compliance. They are all facing that. The simple fact is how do you fund it?There is no magic pile of money that comes out of the air that provides for them to not only maintain what they have but also execute a new agile infrastructure and transform.

You need to really understand the business model change. Customers are transforming. You are either being disrupted or you are innovating. You are in this cycle. What we are doing is going hand in hand with our partner community to have this conversation. To have that conversation you have to understand how it impacts the customer’s business. Some of our partners do that exceptionally well. We are trying to share experiences. But it is a different set of people you need to talk to and it is a different message.

How fast is the as-a-service opportunity growing?

If you look at as a service, on prem or off prem, it is growing at 18 percent if you look at some of the IDC forecasts. What is declining is capital spending (on technology). People want to buy as a service – on prem or off prem. With the remaining applications that sit on prem there is complexity to that environment that we need to transform.

Customers want to leverage the same experience they get off prem (with public cloud)in an on premise environment. It is as a service. They want to pay for what they use. They don’t want to over provision and bear that cost. Ultimately it is about speed. The business expects IT to deliver agility and speed.

What kind of dynamics are you seeing public, private and hybrid cloud?

Our job is to really enable every customer to use whatever they need to fend off disruption and to innovate. Our strategy has been hybrid.We embrace both. We embrace on prem, off prem or anywhere in between. Our job isn’t to judge the strategy. Our job is to enable it. Certainly we have a point of view in some areas. That is why GreenLake Central is so important, giving customers the ability to see the entire (IT) estate (with a single pane of glass).

That IT estate It is not static. It is dynamic. Things are going to change. If you have something on prem or an application off prem and you sell a division of a company that entire ecosystem application could move.

What are you seeing with regard to GreenLake in the midmarket?

The pure activity level we are seeing from that segment is exciting. That is a really robust pipeline for us. What it plays to is the standardized GreenLake offerings which play really well there. Customers say I need this- say perhaps being measured at a VM level - I don’t want to deal with it – You run that infrastructure for me – insulate me from technology refreshes.That is a big part of GreenLake. It is a white glove treatment of the (IT) environment.

There is a cultural change and business process change within the customer that takes place. The benefits are pretty compelling for that market.

How do you feel about the GreenLake momentum coming into the new fiscal year?

For HPE this is like a $3 billion startup. It is a $3 billion business already. That is for HPE as a whole. The focus we have in North America and the resources that we have attached to the GreenLake vision are significant. When (HPE CEO) Antonio (Neri) says we are going to pivot the company to as a service by 2022 we are leading that charge. The demand from customers has been fantastic. Ourfocus is around making it easy and making sure the experience is what it needs to be. That is going to be an evolution. We need to keep making fundamental improvements to our position. We are always going to be chased. It is well known – competitors have seen this and have asked our channel partners to talk to them about this.So our focus is to just accelerate. The benefit that we have with our channel partners is consistency, stability and we are a known entity.

For North America from myself to Leslie to Terry to Peter to Jas this is a well known group. There is no wild card. Partners know where we stand. We are making ourselves available to the partner community if they have questions. That known stability helps us accelerate. I am not reorganizing or coming up with a new thing. That is important.

What are road blocks or challenges you see for this year?

It’s bringing everybody along. If you have 100 people some percentage of those people understand it and get it, they have immersed themselves in it. Usually it is because they have had an engagement and they have won. Then you take our extended sales force – our valued partners – and we have to get folks moving. We have to get folks up that chain. That is part of the training Leslie talked about for our channel partners. But it is really just getting everyone to understand the experience of being simpler. This is a focal point for the business.

We want to make the messaging simple for customers – help them to understand what it is and what it isn’t and obviously our sales force and the partner sales force working together. It is an educational process. And it never stops because the solution keeps evolving and moving forward. And the industry keeps evolving. So you are never done.Our commitment is to have that attitude.We need to continue to come to partners to bring them what they need to be successful as they transform.

How does the as-a-service model affect the full portfolio?

If customers want to buy infrastructure we are still doing that. There is not one answer to what is going to solve customer problems.

Just to be clear we are not out of the (transactional) infrastructure business but more and more customers are saying they want to look at as a service. That is accelerating so we are going to be on the front end of that.

It’s just like a couple of years ago when we said the edge was going to be important. That is playing out. Seventy five percent of data today is created outside of public cloud- outside the data center. That means it is being created at the edge. So our strategy is spot on. For partners it is consistent.

This isn’t some departure. We called hybrid IT which is where GreenLake fits squarely. We’ll still provide infrastructure for companies building out that type of model. The edge to cloud is playing out. The idea that one size fits all is not what we are telling customers. It is what size do you need for you to be successful to outrun disruption and our channel partners are aligned to that.

Does the rate of change that needs to take place for partners to deliver everything as a service by 2022 need to accelerate?

I would say it has to accelerate which is why we are trying to put so much compensation behind it for channel partners. We believe the quickest way to get there is together because of the complexities of it. The transformation that is necessary requires new relationships. You are really talking to a new group of customers with a different message. I think we are ahead right now, but to get where we want to go it is going to take continued improvement, simplicity and a better experience.

When we created a focus on GreenLake and enabled partners to sell it and made it such a focal point for the company that immediately put all the wood behind that arrow. We are confident that it has the right level of attention and it is just about maintaining momentum. To do that you want more and more of our channel partners comfortable with how to sell it, how to position it and how to deliver it.

What kind of impact are you seeing from the impact of former Microsoft Azure executive Keith White as HPE GreenLake General Manager and Senior Vice President?

Keith is fantastic! He is still digging in. I met with him in California. With Keith we are coming at GreenLake from both ways now which is a huge advantage for HPE and our partners. We are coming from an infrastructure centric solutions company and saying let’s do things as a service. Keith is coming from a software and an as a service model. It balances everything that customers will see moving forward. It is really a unique combination.

His leadership is really going to accelerate where we go. We have been building the GreenLake model over 10 years with a focus on customer experience. That perfectly dovetails with Keith’s experience. You don’t want to necessary replicate everything.You want to create something new. We created something new with GreenLake from an infrastructure standpoint. Keith has had all that experience from Microsoft and he is looking at what it can become. What GreenLake can become is really exciting!

It is all about the combined vision of what HPE has been doing organically and with Keith’s thoughts and ideas on what it should look like in the future. That gives us an opportunity to redefine the market. Keith is an exceptional guy.Paula Hodgins, our managing director of Canada, came from Microsoft too. We have a pretty good hand. We just have to execute.

How is the HPE new account strategy working in the field?

It is not about us saying you can go hunt as a channel in this acquisition space. The channel is all over the acquisition accounts. They are all over all the segments. It is about us partnering together to have a joint value proposition.

We are not handing this off and saying – ‘Go off on your own and drive this.’ What I hear from our channel partners is they want the HPE team and brand to help break into those accounts and work those accounts together with them. That takes a lot of discipline. That is back to the consistency and the stability and the fact that Terry, Peter and Jas understand how to build programs with the channel that are productive.

How big is the new account opportunity?

We are at the tip of the iceberg. We have been successful together with our channel without truly attacking the (new account) opportunity because we have played primarily in the installed base. We have touched this much and there is this much available.

We haven’t done what we have needed do to enable that to happen successfully and quickly. Now that I have leaders in place who recognize the opportunity it is happening.They are really helping to take the HPE brand, the HPE expertise in a really complex world and driving it with partners.

How big an investment is HPE making to get more aggressive with the channel?

When I look at the investments I am making in people -100 percent of our investments in Q1 were all based on the segmentation and attacking the channel space.

For GreenLake we have tripled the number of resources that are working with the channel community in North America under Dave Twohy.

How big an impact is the new enterprise account acquisition strategy?

If you look at that (new account enterprise) segment we are seeing double digit growth. (Those are accounts that have had no HPE active sale for three years).That is all channel. That is 100 percent channel.

I was looking at how I have spent my Q1 in terms of who I have been meeting with. So I have done three or four keynotes with our channel partner teams. Right now I am eclipsing 78 separate conversations just with channel partners in the last two and a half months. That is my personal engagement with either opportunities or account structures and how we are doing.

I am spending the majority of my time with the channel to just make sure they understand what we did to get to where we are. But more importantly to let them know how we are accelerating. It is about consumption which is taking off. It is about our intelligent data platform and the approach we have to use the AI assets we have across the entire portfolio to help customers pull costs out.

It is about how our innovation is landing whether it is what we are doing with Secure Root of Trust (with HPE Gen10 servers) or perimeter security with Aruba; what we are doing with our relationship with Pensando and how that is truly unique and accelerating. These are all plays that fit into the strategy.

What I have been telling the channel partners consistently is look at the opportunity which is billions of dollars of TAM (total addressable market) that is sitting there for us to attack.

The other lever we are throwing really heavy is high performance computing which started a couple of years ago when we bought SGI. Look at all the organic investment we made with Apollo in HPC (High Performance Compute). The addition of Cray and the intellectual property it brings is truly unique. In today’s world with the explosion of data HPC is no longer on the fringe. All those assets are now playing in mainstream computing.

From a channel partner perspective there is an opportunity in HPC that no one else has. That includes all the assets we have built with our own organic IP (intellectual property), SGI and Cray. It is a huge fundamental advantage that gets partners into new markets whether it is state and local government, federal. Even commercial customers are using HPC because of AI and machine learning. They are all trying to find out how they get to the edge and how to convert data into money and revenue streams. This is totally unique for HPE and the channel will benefit from that.

Talk about why it is so critical for HPE and the channel to team on these new emerging opportunities?

Working together you are going to get a better result for customers. There is no doubt about it.

The things we are tackling together are so complex and channel partners are transitioning to catch up.

The world today is moving at lightning speed. We all know that. Second the explosion of data is overwhelming customers. You have piles of data. The question is how do you turn it into money and monetize it?

Account planning is one thing, but then there is the relevance of what you are telling customers. The problems we have to solve will only be solved by working together. This is about where we are going in the next 24 to 36 months – not where we were five years ago.

How has the strategic account planning effort with partners changed in a business outcome driven market?

We are marching into different customer personas now. If you look at traditional IT both HPE and our partners have been very, very strong in traditional IT. Now a lot of these decisions are being made whether it is large data or HPC or machine learning in different parts of the organization.

We are helping customers and partners are helping us in a symbiotic way to march into those new personnas. You are talking to data scientists who ask really broad questions and demand all the data in the organization. That is a different set of people - line of business leaders. There are Data Ops – the data mining folks.

We are touching the whole gamut. We are bringing our partners into those discussions more and more. You need to do that. You have to have a very broad footprint of who you talk to today to be successful with regard to how you architect solutions.

What is the fundamental difference for HPE right now?

Every single leader on my team is completely open to the channel community and their feedback. Every one of them has DNA that came from the channel. Every one of them is wide open to listening to the feedback from the channel.That channel feedback may be – ‘I love the value proposition but it is a little too difficult for us to get our new sales reps spun up on what the concepts are or if you could change the experience customers are saying this would be better and would help accelerate wins moving forward. Everyone on my team is wide open to those suggestions with the partners.

The channel partners have this communication clarity back to my team and my team is listening. No one is tone deaf to the channel community on my team. We know it is not perfect. We know it can get better. We are looking at that . As the channel partners give us feedback on how they can better engage with customers on our behalf or with us we are wide open to that feedback. We are going to keep that open. It is really clear. It goes from the customer to the partner to us. There is a real (channel) clarity that is completely unique to us.