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Everything you need to know about HPE

Born out of HP's split, HPE focuses on enterprise products and services

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) was created in 2015 when HP split its operation into two. On one side is HP Inc, the printer and PC arm of the company, while HPE deals with enterprise products and services.

Since HPE was formed, it has consistently grown in terms of both revenue and profit margin, and has been buying businesses and launching new products and services to keep up with competitors. It hasn't become bloated, though, and over the past five years has spun off various business units, most notably its software and enterprise services divisions.

Quick facts:

  • Founded: 1 November 2015
  • CEO: Antonio Neri
  • Chair: Patricia Russo
  • HQ: Houston, Texas
  • Annual revenue: $26.98 billion (2020)

The announcement that HP was going to be split into two parts came in 2014, with the division being completed in late 2015. Hewlett Packard Enterprise, as the name would suggest, is focused on enterprise hardware products, such as servers and networking equipment, whereas HP Inc sells printers, laptops and desktop PCs.

Despite experiencing some pretty tough times, HPE is still one of the leaders in its field, especially in the cloud market where it's competing head-to-head with Dell Technologies (particularly Dell EMC) for the largest part of the cloud IT infrastructure revenue share.

What does HPE sell?

HPE’s product strategy has changed remarkably over the past five years. While it still sells hardware appliances, both directly and through its channel partners, the company is now more focused on GreenLake – its as a service, consumption-based product.

In short, GreenLake promises to bring a cloud-like experience to an on-premises environment, with customers only paying for what they are currently using irrespective of how much hardware they actually have in place. This comprises all elements of the company’s portfolio, from storage to servers and even brings in elements of networking from Aruba and, under its Ezmeral portfolio, software.

Neri has said GreenLake is the future of HPE, stating in 2021 that “this will be our leading product, leading offer, our leading experience, where everything else underneath is part of that experience” – everything else, in this case, being HPE’s traditional hardware offerings.

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This includes product categories like all-flash and hybrid storage, hyperconverged infrastructure, rack and tower servers, composable infrastructure (one of HPE’s biggest focuses prior to the arrival of GreenLake), converged edge systems under the Edgeline umbrella, its high-end Primera storage systems, and supercomputing/high-performance computing (HPC). As mentioned above, while the company does like to push customers, both potential and existing, in the direction of GreenLake, most of these products are also available to buy on a more traditional basis.

GreenLake isn’t just about keeping everything in the customer’s data centre, though – the company started to actively embrace hybrid cloud in 2018 and acknowledges the hyperscale public cloud vendors do have something to offer. As part of this strategy, the company struck a partnership with Nutanix in April 2019 to deliver services from the likes of AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Anthos to its customers – all through the GreenLake platform, of course.

HPE's history

While HPE has only existed for only five years as a company, its heritage goes back 80 years to 1939, when it was founded in a garage by two Stanford University electrical engineering graduates, Bill Hewlett and David Packard.

For the first 30 years of its existence, the company focused on small electronics equipment like audio oscillators, calculators and counter-radar technology during the Second World War. It was only in 1966 that it entered the computing business with a series of mini computers.

In the decades that followed, however, it took pioneering steps in server architecture, 'smart' ASCII terminals, desktop computing and desktop printing.

During the 2000s and early 2010s, the company experienced a particularly turbulent time following a number of troubled acquisitions, notably Compaq, EDS and Autonomy.

Between 1999 and 2011, HPE went through three CEOs (not counting interim CEOs), all of whom left under a cloud. Finally, in September 2011, Meg Whitman was brought onboard and it was she who oversaw the division of HP into HPE and HP Inc.

Whitman continued as head of HPE following its founding in 2015 and led the charge to further narrow the company's focus on enterprise hardware, spinning off its software and services businesses (although this latter move was reversed in 2017 with the launch of PointNext). She also focused on building up the company's in-memory computing efforts, known under her tenure as The Machine, and edge computing capabilities, as well as a focus on hybrid IT.

In November 2017 Whitman announced she would be retiring from her position of CEO, with the company's then president Antonio Neri taking over in February 2018. Neri remains CEO today.

In 2020, after more than 80 years in the San Francisco Bay area, the company announced it was upping sticks moving its headquarters from San Jose, California to Houston, Texas. The new campus is set to open in early 2022.

HPE's acquisitions

Since its creation in 2015, HPE has been on a consistent quest to bring new technologies into its portfolio through acquisitions.

The first of these is arguably Aruba Networks, which was acquired in the period between the spin-off announcement and its completion. Since then, it’s become an integral part of the company.

At the company’s annual Discover conference in 2019, Aruba’s co-founder Keerti Melkote joined CEO Antonio Neri on stage to talk about the company’s new cloud management system that’s underpinned by Aruba technology. He and some of his Aruba colleagues have now become familiar faces to Discover attendees.

Another key acquisition for the company was Nimble Storage, which it bought for $1 billion in 2017. The technology brought on as part of this acquisition has gone on to be an integral part of the company’s jewel in the crown of its storage business, Primera.

Another notable area where it’s been making acquisitions is in high-performance computing (HPC). In 2016, it bought SGI, and followed up this move by purchasing another big name in HPC, Cray, in 2019. HPE hasn’t referred back to either company in quite the explicit way that Nimble Storage and Aruba have been, but their artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and exascale computing pedigree is palpable in some of the company’s most recent products and strategy announcements.

Away from hardware, the company made a significant software acquisition in 2017 when it bought security company Niara. The technology brought onboard following the purchase has now largely been incorporated into Aruba in order to bolster its network security.

While all was quiet on this front during 2020, the company made a couple of acquisitions in 2021, the most notable of which was Zerto, a cloud data management and protection firm it bought for $374 million (£277.5 million) in July that year. Its technology has since been rolled into HPE GreenLake and the Data Services Cloud Console.

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