CRN Interview: Eaton GM On Software-Defined Power, Azure Stack Integration And Cloud Spending 'Swinging Back' To On-Premise

Eaton's Technology Vision And Partner Strategy

With more than three decades of experience in the IT power industry, Eaton's Herve Tardy has seen it all and knows how to skate to where the puck is going.

"My vision for the future of the products we sell -- UPS, PDUs -- it's going to be a manageable appliance where everything will be using RESTful APIs to really enable software-defined power," said Tardy, vice president, general manager of Eaton's distributed power division, in an interview with CRN.

Tardy said partners don't want to talk too much about power with customers, but they need to understand the opportunities around Eaton's software and management solutions that drive market differentiation and channel revenues.

Tardy spoke to CRN about Eaton's power vision, potential integration with Microsoft Azure and how customer spend is "starting to swing back to on-premise IT."

Eaton has been doubling down on software and MSP enablement. What's your vision?

My vision for the future of the products we sell -- UPS (uninterruptible power supply) PDUs (power distribution unit) -- it's going to be a manageable appliance where everything will be based using RESTful APIs to really enable software-defined power. We see a lot of opportunity of having these pieces of hardware with firmware that is fully remotely manageable and remotely upgradable. So the hardware can stay for a long time and while firmware updates are implemented. You will be able to really manage power the way you want. We're starting to see companies coming up with fairly sophisticated, not ready for prime-time yet, solutions to enable software-defined power in a data center in the same way we talk about software-defined storage and software-defined networking.

How is Eaton approaching software-defined power and why should the channel care?

We are starting to look at software-defined power because it may create opportunities for partners, but what is available right now is probably way too complex. We'll have to streamline and simplify because what we see when it comes to power and IT is that IT professionals have 30 seconds to think about power. If you cannot come up with something that can be deployed, enabled, managed in 30 seconds you're wasting your time.

When we talk about software-definined something or integration into a software-defined data center, the ability to play with the workloads and track the workloads inside the data center is important [for partners]. This is something we're working on including some machine learning and artificial intelligence in our product so you can really track the workloads based on the power consumption on each outlet. That's fairly innovative. There's still a lot of work to do, but these are the technologies we're working on that can really bring a lot of value to customers.

Do you agree with Dell CEO Michael Dell(pictured) that on-premise software-defined data centers are more cost effective for most workloads compared to public cloud?

Michael Dell was saying, 'Now we can enable a very cost competitive on-premise solution compared to the cloud.' I believe that he is on the right track. This is what the market is looking for and there are now solutions to do it. For me as a power vendor, it's a great opportunity because we will see more and more customers chipping down the legacy data center because they are becoming too big and obsolete. They're really moving towards agile, single racks full of IT and probably much more distributed than what we've done in the past with enterprise data centers. These types of IT racks are in every single branch office for distributed IT and edge computing.

Do you see customers today investing more on-premise than in public cloud compared to a few years ago?

The pendulum is starting to swing back to on-premise IT, but it will be a different type of on-premise IT than the corporate data center from ten years ago. We've seen customers who really like the business value of the cloud, but they are being scared by the monthly invoices coming from the cloud providers. We do see that. We see CFO's starting to really fight hard against moving more workloads to the cloud unless it makes real business sense. Everybody is looking at, 'How can I bring cloud economics in an environment that I can control as an end user and company?' This is where hyper-convergence really has value add because that's really cloud economics that you can control and master as a customer. For channel partners, that's something that they will be able to deploy to the customer as well. It's no longer about having to deal with AWS in trying to get a piece of recurring revenue which may be a bit hazy to them.

How can partners create market differentiation with your technology strategy?

The last thing I want to talk about is power. I want to discuss about how we can improve an existing IT solution and demonstrate that we understand the IT market and know what's coming up next. Then channel partners may say, 'We can create a difference in the market against what everybody else is selling if we partner with Eaton.' We've been looking at orchestration because now everything is hybrid IT. We are focusing on new technologies. We've been developing integration with OpenStack, but OpenStack didn’t really get the market traction that many people were hoping for. It was way too complex to deploy and too many variations, so probably not the platform of the future for orchestration. We're partnering with HPE around OneView, it's a very focused and dedicated orchestration platform that is getting traction. Lately our focus has been on containers. So we provide integration with Docker and with Kubernetes because this is what everybody is looking at right now for container orchestration. We keep developing new UPSs and PDUs. That's the strategy.

What is a new technology opportunity Eaton is currently pursuing?

For hybrid IT, Eaton is a $20 billion corporation. We are evaluating our own hybrid IT solutions. Currently we're evaluating the Azure stack with Microsoft. This is something I'm pursuing for my business and partnering with Eaton IT to see how we could integrate our power solutions with an Azure stack solution.

What's your message to the channel community in 2018?

The message is all about lifecycle management. To me, it's not about the simple transaction of, 'I'll be selling an Eaton solution for 'X' amount of dollars, then move onto the next transaction.' It's really about managing power over time which is an opportunity to create recurring revenue for the channel partner after the sale of the product with software. You also have opportunity to replace parts of the UPS, the batteries, replace the fans and all the things in the UPS over time. … Our big focus is not on hardware, it's on software and software integration because this is where the value of the market is.