New HPE GreenLake Chief Keith White: HPE Is Becoming ‘More Of A Software Company’

“I am really excited to talk to our top customers, partners and field sellers to hear really how things are landing, what the real challenges are, what we can be doing differently," White said in an exclusive interview with CRN

New Hewlett Packard Enterprise GreenLake General Manager and Senior Vice President Keith White, a former 20-year Microsoft cloud superstar, said he is excited to take the helm of the GreenLake business as HPE becomes more of a software company.

“As we move to looking as a company to having a software organization and really moving to be more of a software company it plays nicely to what I learned at Microsoft for what we need to do to build out this as a service and consumption based business,” said White in an interview with CRN.

White, whose first official day at HPE was Monday, is widely credited with playing a critical role in driving dramatic Microsoft Azure sales growth, most recently as vice president of the intelligent cloud, worldwide commercial business.

“Keith played a key role in driving the significant growth of Azure over seven consecutive years,” said HPE Hybrid IT President Phil Davis in a blog post titled “Technology & Talent: Changing The Game In Hybrid IT. “Keith also brings extensive experience in worldwide field sales and marketing, partner ecosystem development and business strategy leadership – all of which will be key elements of his role here at HPE.

Davis said White’s role overseeing the GreenLake business is “fundamental” to ensuring that HPE continues to deliver a “seamless cloud experience for our customers’ and partners’ workloads, at the edge, across all of their clouds, and in the data center.”

How does it feel to be chosen to head up the GreenLake business?

It’s exciting to be here. I love what is happening with respect to what HPE is doing with GreenLake. Our customers are demanding a hybrid environment. It is not all public. It is not all on prem. It is really a hybrid environment. That whole strategy is super compelling. It is pretty clear that is what customers are asking for.

I love this idea of building and growing businesses. With what I was able to do in partnership with a lot of people at Microsoft with Azure, I was excited about bringing that into the HPE environment and really changing the culture they have and the approach they have into this consumption based world is also super exciting.

Frankly I had a fantastic experience at Microsoft. I learned a ton: great people, great products, great environment, great leadership team I saw a lot of that here as well from (HPE CEO) Antonio (Neri) on down,” he said. “I’m just excited to bring my skill set and have the opportunity to grow this business.

Are there similarities with regard to the Microsoft channel when you look at what HPE needs to do to be successful?

We really had to pivot as a company to be partner led and to sell through and with our partner ecosystem and with the channel. The reality is customers want solutions and they want solutions that solve their business problems and our partners are the ones that weave that together and put that together for them. Once we realized this can’t be a transactional relationship, it really has to be a deep partnership, that is where we really started to accelerate the business. I am excited to jump into the GreenLake business where there seems to be fantastic momentum.

There is growth with respect to the channel sales pipeline, growth and the number of partners working with GreenLake today. There was 326 percent year over year growth in Q4 with 500 plus partners. It is an exciting opportunity to not only take that to more partners but to really help those partners that are starting this business grow their profitability.

What did you have to do to accelerate Microsoft Azure sales growth and how does that apply here?

There are a lot of similarities. The inflection point came when people realized this was really about solving customer problems and understanding what the outcome is that the customer required versus just selling technology.

That happened when we really started to get deep with our partner ecosystem. That happened when we talked to them about how do we jointly go to market together and co-sell your solutions whether that is an ISV (Indpendent Software Vendor) or a managed service provider (MSP), how do we sell together.

At the end of the day that inflection point came when we had that machine running really well. That meant we had to help our existing partner base understand how to live in this new world. That was tough for some folks so we really had to help them forward. We also had to go recruit new partners because there was a new partner type that was emerging based on what was happening with respect to that.

But I really think it became core when we saw a strong win win for both the partner and the company – whether that is Microsoft or HPE- where selling into a customer was both profitable and long term because it provided us a platform with which to do the next solution and opportunity with that customer. This is where the channel plays a key role.

What is your message to channel partners with regard to the opportunity?

It is nothing but upside. Look at all the research out there. Yes the public cloud is going to continue to grow so there is a bunch of opportunity there. But with respect to consumption based on the private cloud or on prem that growth is tremendous.

The reality is that running the intelligent cloud business at Microsoft we saw continued strong growth with respect to products like SQL Server and Windows Server because people were modernizing their data center and moving to the public cloud. That goes back to the hybrid cloud.

The requirements of what is happening at the edge and being able to really not only run the edge effectively but then be able to take that data and turn it into real business outcomes is also important. You need to analyze that data with regard to how you want to run the business going forward. Those things are so important. So you have this amazing opportunity to leverage the hybrid and on premise environment effectively and securely.

What does it mean that HPE has broken out GreenLake as a separate business unit that you will oversee?

At the end of the day I am a pretty big We not Me fan. The reality is GreenLake is going to work across all of the other business units as well. As we bring everything at HPE as a service that means that GreenLake will touch everything. I am excited to work in what I view as sort of a matrix environment to move to as a service and then be successful.

Initially anytime you are starting up and really growing and accelerating a new business having that dedicated business unit helps a ton because it makes sure that focus isn’t five percent or ten percent of someone’s job but it is 100 percent of someone’s job. So I am excited to get to lead this business unit to work with our channel partners, field sales force and our customers on how to grow this and make everyone be successful with the opportunity there.

As you look at Antonio’s strategy of edge to cloud and all the changes he has implemented here with respect to the culture and bringing in new people and new talent the company is teed up to be super successful.

What do you see as HPE’s strengths in the hybrid cloud battle?

The uniqueness is we are going to be in a multicloud hybrid environment in the majority of our customers. So they are going to want to have a similar common experience across the board. I love how GreenLake with GreenLake Central is going to bring that to customers. That is where I see the uniqueness of what HPE is doing. Then you add on the HPE channel ecosystem, the Pointnext effort’s and all of the other HPE hardware components. That is fantastic.

As we move to looking as a company to having a software organization and really moving to be more of a software company it plays nicely to what I learned at Microsoft for what we need to do to build out this as a service and consumption based business.

Talk about HPE’s software prowess as you take this job?

The hardware component we have at this company is fantastic – top tier- whether that is blades, storage, the networking and the Aruba stuff. All of that is so critical to what customers are trying to do. To really make that come together you have seen a lot of acquisitions the company has made over the last year. That has been very exciting for me as I have seen the investments that (HPE CEO) Antonio (Neri) (pictured) and (HPE Hybrid IT President) Phil (Davis) and team are making.

Think about what HPE has announced recently like the container platform with Kubernetes and what we are trying to do there. What we have done with GreenLake Central. These are all software announcements that we have been making. That transition is happening in real time in the marketplace as we go forward. I think this whole idea around software defined, software as a service, platform as a service scenarios is the shift that you are seeing take the company. That is why I say this movement to software is really critical.

What are your priorities for the first 100 days?

The first 100 days is something I am really excited about. I am a big listener. I am a big fan of what is the real world saying so I am excited to go talk to folks. I am here at Gartner talking to analysts. But I am really excited to talk to our top customers, partners and field sellers to hear really how things are landing, what the real challenges are, what we can be doing differently. At the same time, I will spend a lot of time internally learning what folks have done to date. There is a fantastic set of people. There is a ton of momentum behind the product. There are some great things that are going on. So I am excited to learn what is working well and see what I can do to really help sort of accelerate different pieces of that. I will work with folks like (Worldwide Global Channel Chief) Paul Hunter. It is going to be listening and learning and really not trying to change too many things right off the bat but then really finding the opportunities that we have to accelerate the business.gre