Supportageddon and other things you didn’t know about HPE Microsoft Solutions

HPE Storage does more than SQL server

When I first took this role as Product Manager for the Microsoft Storage solutions at HPE, it really seemed that all we did was store MS SQL Server data on HPE Nimble and HPE 3PAR storage.  It turned out that HPE has a whole line of Microsoft Storage Solutions delivered to customers across many of our Storage products — Nimble, 3PAR StorServ, MSA, Apollo, and related networking and services.

In fact, our biggest solution area so far this year is Microsoft Exchange on Apollo. Traditionally we’ve served many very large organizations with this solution, and we expect that to continue with the upgrade to Exchange 2019.  To note – this solution typically uses the Apollo platform, which you may be more familiar with in relation to Big Data analytics.

But the HPE Apollo 4200 Gen10  is an ideal platform for Exchange – esp. when you match it up vs. the new Exchange Server 2019 Preferred Architecture (PA): 2U, x86 server, dual socket, up to 48 total physical processor cores.  Up to 512GB of memory – exceeding the 256GB in the PA. We accommodate up to 54 hot-pluggable drives within the server chassis, way beyond the 12 needed in the PA. Apollo meets the requirement to mix HDD and solid-state storage SAS or SATA SSD within the same chassis – and we added a rear drive cage for NVMe options as future-proofing.  The 4200 also comes with a 96W battery-backed Smart Array write cache controller.

Supportageddon

Supportageddon is coming

So what exactly do I mean by ‘Supportageddon’ and does this have something to do with a big snow storm?  Many of you depend on Microsoft apps for business-critical systems, and many of these popular apps are going EOS as soon as this April!  By EOS I really mean “End of Extended Support”.  This impacts a number of areas very important to enterprise IT:

  • Security: There will be no access to critical security updates, opening the potential for business interruptions
  • Compliance: As support ends, your organization may fail to meet to meet compliance standards and industry regulations
  • Maintenance: Maintaining legacy servers, firewalls, intrusion systems, etc. gets expensive quickly

Specific versions going EOS that we see especially critical to our customer base are Windows Server 2008 (and R2), SQL Server 2008, and Exchange Server 2010.  In the case of Exchange for instance, which goes EOS Jan 2020, though the software will continue to run, Microsoft is telling customers to migrate as soon as possible. There will be no support extensions.

Don’t think “Cloud First” – think “Hybrid Cloud First”

Hang on, “Cloud First” was the New way to think about IT, right?  Well, actually if by new you mean 2010, then sure. That was when US federal government agencies received the mandate to start using cloud computing in their IT operations.  Since then, there has been a lot of design and engineering going into IT products, which have been evolving from being completely on-prem equipment, to cloud-compatible, to cloud-ready, and many nowadays being ‘built for cloud’ and even multi-cloud use.

Having said that, there are still a large number of companies who will happily choose a refresh of what they already have in place. A great example is Burkhalter group who did a considerable study of how best to meet the needs of their growing business – cloud vs. on-premises – and decided to keep Exchange on-prem, and upgraded to an HPE 3PAR Storage and Synergy composable compute infrastructure.  They reduced admin costs 20% with the cloud-like scale and automation they got with the HPE solution in their own datacenter.

With the products available today, smart customers are thinking “Hybrid Cloud first” and are looking for infrastructure and app solutions that bridge the on-prem/cloud divide for them.  For instance, back to Exchange, the latest version can natively support both on-prem and Office365-based users together in the same instance.  Similarly, there is data storage infrastructure available with service extensions like HPE Cloud Volumes and HPE Cloud Bank Storage so that at the infrastructure level, data volumes can reside on-prem, or in the cloud, and retain mobility to move back or across cloud providers. For production data, secondary data, or back-up/DR.

Hardware still makes a difference

Who’d have thought this can be, today in the age of all things “Software defined” and “Cloud”.  But actually the hardware you chose makes a big difference – more applications are requiring specific hardware features and capabilities, such as embedded AI intelligence.

Here’s a recent blog specifically about how “How HPE hardware brings out the best in Microsoft Exchange Server 2019”.  Enjoy.

Track the latest news and happenings with HPE Microsoft Storage solutions on twitter at @mhardi01.

Windows Server 2019 is officially Available!

I’m thrilled to welcome the official release of Windows Server 2019, after an extended launch period. This operating system which has been preeminent in the datacenter for so long, continues to deliver new areas of innovation, and I see it as being especially relevant and impactful to what I’ll be working on, as part of the Microsoft Storage Solution business at HPE, in the years to come.

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Our team has been hustling to complete certifications and planning around this release, and our hats are off to our partner for getting it published.

Introduction to Windows Server 2019

Microsoft Windows Server 2019 is an operating system recently released as part of the Windows NT family. Traditionally Microsoft has led the operating system market, and has accounted for 83% of desktop O/S market share (source: Statista) as well as 88% of on-premises Server share (source: Spiceworks).

Key themes of the Windows Server 2019 release include hybrid IT, security, application platform, and hyper-converged infrastructure.  Key new features of this version include: Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), Support for Kubernetes (Beta), Storage Spaces Direct, Storage Migration Service, Storage Replica, System Insights, and an improved Windows Defender.

HPE and Windows

HPE and Microsoft share a 30 year partnership of deep technical collaboration, significant multi-year mutual investments, and exciting global co-promotions.

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The latest version of Windows Server is a key enabling technology for a number of new and enhanced Microsoft Server products, including: Microsoft Exchange Server 2019 (which only runs on Windows Server 2019), along with important Microsoft business server products such as Microsoft SQL Server 2019, SharePoint Server 2019 and a number of others that have recently released or are anticipated in calendar year 2019.

The Storage solution team at HPE is focused on ensuring continued smooth infrastructure operations as our customers upgrade to Windows Server 2019. In addition, we work to help make sure our customers get enterprise-class performance and availability with the product and its related business apps, and we’ll deliver on this with continued efforts around testing, reference architectures, integrations, and training.

Windows Server 2019 and HPE Storage

As of this writing, we have key Storage platforms certified for Windows Server 2019, including HPE 3PAR StorServ Storage, HPE Nimble Storage, and HPE XP Storage.  You’ll also find HPE Smart Array storage controllers among the list of our Windows Server 2019 Certified products. Note that up-to-date Microsoft Windows certification status is available at the Windows Server Catalog site:  www.WindowsServerCatalog.com

Congrats again to HPE partner, Microsoft. To learn more about the breadth of HPE Microsoft Storage solutions available today, visit hpe.com/storage/Microsoft

Changing Composition of Solutions in the Cloud Era

There’s been a traditional view of ‘Solutions’ in technology.  It’s often attributed to IBM, whose heritage in this area goes back a century when Thomas Watson was instructing sales people to sell large scale ‘tabulating solutions’, and to leave the small office equipment sales to other companies.

problem-solutionOften in Tech, Solutions management and marketing has been an exercise in providing the remaining 15% of an offering beyond what the core product can provide. The development and marketing of a Solution can be a function of a time-to-market crunch for a new product, or a means to address new uses or verticals for established products.

For instance, a relational database is a product that generically meets the needs of customers who want to store structured data, but customers would probably also want to protect that data, so rather than wait until that feature is built, it’s faster and often better to just partner with a third-party, in this case, a backup software company, to provide a more complete solution.  Traditional solution components therefore start with a core product offering, add one or more third-party products, and often some related service, and voilà, you have a solution.  Create a solution brief, do some training, supporting communications, and you’re in business.

Because solutions have their roots in a selling environment, not surprisingly there have been formalized Sales approaches around it. These efforts included variations on ‘solution selling’ delivered internally by businesses and externally by consulting services.  One course I took in this area was “SVS”, short for “Strategic Value Selling” which I studied while at EDS back in the mid 90s.  A related book I enjoyed reading around that time was “Selling to VITO”.  All of it still relevant today.  Identify the customer’s problem and focus your pitch, and solution, around that.

Key factors driving change in Solutions

But there has been a big change in the IT world since the 90s: cloud computing.  Gartner sees Public Cloud as a $300B market by 2021. The vast majority of today’s organizations, and even the federal government, are thinking ‘cloud first’.  Trying to craft a traditional value proposition within a product category that’s radically evolving from being strictly on-premises to in-the-cloud (or some combination of the two) can be a frustrating experience.  Central to this challenge is the changing nature of the solution itself — because the shifting context of the IT deployment fundamentally changes what’s the problem being solved.

I’ve identified at least three key changes in the technology marketspace that are leading us towards a shift in how we think about Solution Management and Marketing:

  1. Change in the Sales-Marketing relationship – In a recent Boston Consulting Group Article, “Building an Integrated Marketing and Sales Engine for B2B”, it details how the prevalence of web content and online marketing along with the familiarity of online product research and purchasing, has created a dynamic where more of the technology ‘sale’ happens before there is even contact with a Sales rep. Today’s B2B buyer is, “… is younger, digitally engaged, and doing more and more business online and on a smartphone.” And that according to recent research from Google, the average B2B buyer is two-thirds of the way through the journey before talking to sales.
  2. Change in the IT product form-factor – What we are producing and selling today is drastically different from a decade ago. IT spend is shifting from tangible products being bought and operated on-premises, to ‘Everything as a service’.  According to IDC, by 2018, at least 40% of IT spending will be cloud-based. This will grow to comprise over 50% of all IT infrastructure, software, services, and technology spending by 2020.  The impact here is that to create a solution around a tangible product is a different exercise vs. one around a cloud-based service.  We are seeing a growth business in Cloud Consulting services: some evolving from traditional IT consultants (Avanade) and off-shore outsourcers (Wipro, Tata), some sprang from tech manufacturers (IBM iX), some from VARs and SIs, and some were truly cloud-native boutiques. Some have grown, merged, died or gotten exits. Services is a more prominent component of modern IT solutions, whether hosted and delivered at scale, or provided bespoke.
  3. The rise of the Platform – I’m not aware of when I first picked up on the idea of ‘Product as a Platform’ but the management consultants have apparently been writing about it since at least 2016. And companies like Microsoft have shown how successful a platform approach can be, such as in the instance of the personal computer, i.e. launching an open system that can support a broad range of third-party applications and hardware. This is in contrast to the Mac with its sealed cases which I don’t believe ever got to be more than 10% of the PC market. More recently, SalesForce.com is a key example of a Software as a Service offering that serves as a platform for a huge ecosystem of add-ons and related services (‘AppExchange’). Amazon AWS is the ascendant example of a platform that has come to dominate the cloud; and this specific offering is at the heart of the sea change in how IT is being consumed, and therefore sold.

Collectively, these 3 changes are driving an evolution in how tech Solutions need to be conceived and delivered.  This following diagram shows the shift in the composition of a Solution: from Product to Platform, from complementary third-party offerings to integration, and a greater mix of Services that represent a greater part of the vendor’s value add.ChangingSolutions

 

Here’s an example: A traditional data storage-related solution could involve an external storage array (e.g. HPE 3PAR or HPE Nimble), plus a complementary product such as backup software from Veeam, Veritas or Zerto, and maybe some planning or deployment consulting service.  Package it up with a solution brief, Sales and channel training, a promotional offer or discount from that one tech partner, and some related Marketing and PR activity, and you’ve launched a solution.

Contrast that traditional solution with what may be the 2019 incarnation: the array as a ‘platform’ for on-prem data capacity, coupled with a broader ecosystem of partners including Azure and AWS who supply cloud-based capacity for colder data storage, or disaster protection. This solution is enabled with Integration in the form of a related web interface and/or REST API development.

Another key aspect are many more related services.  Besides capacity-based pricing and financing of the capital expense, there can be differentiated service levels and support, there can be monitoring, management, initial deployment consulting, follow-on management consulting, or the entire device itself could even be hosted in a co-lo and sold as a Service, priced per GB/Month. This on-demand delivery, buy-only-what-you-need pricing, as well as product positioning more as an enabling device, makes the old IT world look more like the mobile phone space. The customer still wants powerful devices that they can control, but the business model becomes more about the service as measured in minutes and degree of use.

In summary, not all traditional IT infrastructure products will go the way of Tintri tomorrow.  And just taking more of an appliance approach isn’t a guarantee for success – just ask HTC or Cirtas.  But thinking more flexibly about offering format, as well as business model, will help ensure a more successful evolution as the IT space, and the role of Solutions, change.

Are you observing similar changes in how you buy products, or bring them to market?  Share your experiences.

Party like it’s (almost) 1999

I was listening to Sirius XM the other day, and often when I’m rolling through the “70’s on 7” and “80’s on 8” stations I find myself apologizing to my offspring about how bad the music was back then. But then you hear a classic like Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” from 1984, or so many of Aerosmith’s songs from the 70’s, and you remember that there were great songs back then.  Another big hit from prince was “1999”, which was also recorded in the 80’s.  And just as the song directs us to party like it’s 1999, we should heed that advice.

I remind myself of this, because I’ve experienced muted returns from having been a little too defensive in my portfolio, including a whipsaw in gold which has really dropped off over the summer; though there does seem to be a slight recovery in the yellow metal with news of inflation in a rising CPI, some currency fluctuations, and the ongoing threat of global instability thanks to the current administration.

In other words, I stopped letting my portfolio party a little too soon. 

The indicators I had been wary of: high valuations with the S&P 500 PE ratio at over 25 putting it at almost the 4th highest point since they starting tracking it in the 1800’s, and the Shiller version of this same ratio at the 2nd highest point ever (last time it was higher was in 2000), a protectionist administration that looks a lot like Hoover, and a flattening Yield Curve.

A lot has been recently written on the topic of the yield curve. The stories typically underline the descriptive nature of this measure of the cost of government debt vs. maturity, in relation to the economic outlook: sloped is healthy, flat is not, and negative is recessionary. There’s little contention over the truthfulness of the indicator, only debate re: aspects of its predictive ability. I’d contend that for most of us, whether the 2-10 hitting a negative .25 point threshold is less in vogue than the 1-10yr spread with a 4 week inversion, the bigger takeaway is that the smarter guys in the market – the debt guys who need to worry about the value of money 30 years from now – are saying that the economy is cooling, and that the longer-term prospects for an invested dollar are becoming relatively less attractive.

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When the 10-2 spread goes negative, sell-offs and recessions follow

In 1999, the ‘2-10’ spread, or the difference between the 10 year T-Note yield less the yield of the 1 year T-Note, was going negative, which meant we had about a year to go before the equity party was over.  As you can see in this chart from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, historically there’s a year lag between the indicator hitting zero and the stock market tanking (‘Black Monday’ 1989, Dot Com crash of 2000, 2008 meltdown), and a little longer before the economy enters a recession. 

As of this writing, the yield curve is showing a 33 basis point spread between the 2 and 10 years, so we’re close to a flat curve and that important crossover, but not there yet.

Timing is key.  In 1999, the market ran up almost another 26% to its peak in 2000. 

So for your investment portfolio, don’t get too defensive, too soon.  And party like it’s almost 1999.  

The Start of a New Site and Charter

I’m starting up this new blog as a place to post observations and analysis on interesting areas of technology where I can add some value on how things may play out in terms of companies, products and their success over time.  I’ll do my best to meld my experience, and this vantage point from the heart of silicon valley, with a market-driven view towards what it takes to identify and deliver value in the tech industry today.  If I can use this to share on occasion a useful idea with a colleague, I’ll consider it a success.

Every once in a while, a new technology, an old problem, and a big idea turn into an innovation.  Dean Kamen

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