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HPE adds special sauce to Azure Stack

HPE has found ways to differentiate its Azure Stack systems from those supplied by other vendors.

HPE's hybrid cloud strategy has three legs, HPE vice-president of hybrid IT Raj Thakur told iTWire. They are the Synergy composable infrastructure platform, Simplivity hyperconverged systems, and Azure Stack. Some customers use more than one of these, he said.

In addition, there are workload-optimised systems based on more-traditional NonStop, Itanium and SuperDome architectures (to run SAP Hana or Microsoft Analytics Platform System, for instance), as well as data storage optimised systems sold under the Nimble and 3Par brands.

That said, "We're quite excited about Azure Stack", Thakur commented.

HPE and its predecessor has a 30-year partnership with Microsoft, and the companies have been working to provide customers with the same experience as they get with Azure cloud.

HPE's Azure Stack systems are already shipping to an unnamed large bank and a couple of similarly anonymous service providers, and the company is talking to many other customers of various sizes in different industries.

Interest from the public sector is lagging,Thakur observed, but there is some activity via service providers.

That's typical, he observed, as big customers are usually the first to join a technology bandwagon, followed by government agencies, and then it spreads more widely.

The company's strategy is to sell directly to customers, and also through distributors and platform partners.

In association with some of those partners, it even provides the option of installing Azure Stack on customer premises but with full remote management.

"Microsoft has done a tremendous job in preparing the market", both among channel partners and customers, Thakur said.

But HPE has found several ways to differentiate its Azure Stack offerings, he noted.

The company has created Azure Stack innovation centres in Seattle and Geneva, and is working on another in the APAC region. There are already some relevant facilities in Singapore, he noted.

HPE's Azure Stack servers have been fully integrated with the company's OneView infrastructure management system, for both the Azure Stack and the underlying hardware.

Furthermore, they had a 20-30% performance advantage even on HPE's Gen9 servers. The forthcoming Gen10 Azure Stack system will continue to be the performance leader,Thakur claimed. (The HPE ProLiant DL385 Gen10 server was announced today, supporting more virtual machines per server, allowing more data to be processed in parallel, with access to more local storage, and "unprecedented security", according to HPE officials.)

HPE's Azure Stack products come in three configurations, and customers can select the memory, storage, processors, network hardware and racks that are right for their applications. The number of nodes in a system can be increased, but that process does involve some downtime.

The systems are factory integrated, and an installation service is included. Installation is not considered complete until the customer has accepted the system, Thakur pointed out.

Multiple financing options are available, including a pay-per-use model.

The big advantages of this approach are that organisations can deploy applications very rapidly, pay only for what they actually use, and without having to worry about integration.

"That's a whole lot of overhead [including firmware management] you don't have to carry," he said.

There is now no need for organisations to do their own systems integration, as they can buy an appliance or consume Azure Stack as a service.

Azure Stack is good for customers who want a true hybrid environment, said Thakur. Many organisations would continue to use other servers for traditional workloads, and "there will be coexistence with other stacks" in multi-cloud environments.

Talking of which, HPE will next year introduce a multi-cloud management product that can also accommodate traditional servers, he said.

So who should consider HPE Azure Stack systems? According to Thakur, Microsoft-centric organisations that are already using Azure cloud, and know which applications they want to run on-premises.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.