The upcoming termination of Meg Whitman’s reign is not the only Big Bang due out of Hewlett Packard Enterprise early next year: in January the drastically slimmed-down enterprise IT powerhouse will roll out a 3PAR-enabled artificial intelligence recommendation engine (InfoSight AIRE) that will take HPE closer to the autonomous datacenter, according to company officials. “Infosight is AI for the datacenter,” HPE’s Gavin Cohen, VP, Product and Solutions Marketing, Storage, told IT Trends & Analysis. “That’s something Nimble started building on from the start.”
HPE announced the completion of its $1.2 billion acquisition of Nimble Storage in April, and while that significantly beefed up its flash and cloud storage assets, the company said it would be leveraging InfoSight across both its storage and server portfolios. Calling InfoSight the “crown jewels” of the Nimble acquisition, the AI power of the platform provides HPE and its partners with a big competitive advantage against any and all competitors, said Meg’s CEO successor-to-be (as of February 1) HPE President Antonio Neri. “Nobody has this,” he said in a recent interview.
The predictive analytics capabilities are sure to power dramatic reductions in storage total cost of ownership (TCO) for businesses of all sizes, he said. “It delivers the best performance with the best uptime and lowest TCO optimized for the specific workloads that run on the platform. The customer gets the best experience at the lowest cost.”
Beyond storage are servers and ultimately the datacenter, and bringing AI and predictive analytics to the datacenter is not only necessary for protecting existing revenue streams, but essential to the autonomous datacenter. While we hopefully won’t get a Skynet, Terminator’s rise (and fall) of the machines, AI in the datacenter is coming quickly. By 2019, 40% of digital transformation initiatives will use AI services; by 2021, 75% of commercial enterprise apps will use AI; and the majority of adopters have seen quantified returns meeting or exceeding expectations.
“AI is a positive force for change,” stated Mark Purdy, Managing Director-Economic Research, Accenture Research. “It has the potential to markedly increase growth rates and substantially raise economic output across industries, while helping organizations to more easily rotate to the new way of doing business.” A recent survey found that AI could boost average profitability rates by 38% and lead to an economic increase of $14 trillion by 2035.
But all that remains in the future; today, we have AI-powered storage, or at least Nimble, and shortly, 3PAR, and the benefits are equally compelling. The AI and predictive analytics capabilities of InfoSight reduce the time spent troubleshooting issues by up to 85% and help to deliver greater than 99.9999% of guaranteed availability, said HPE. According to a recent whitepaper from Enterprise Strategy Group, HPE InfoSight lowers IT operational expenses 79%.
If InfoSight AIRE can achieve the numbers currently generated by Nimble, then 3PAR customers are in for a pleasant surprise when it is released next month. Nimble claims 4,000 individual data points are retrieved every 5 minutes from each system, including the hardware and file system, and the granularity is per second, with 30-70 million pieces of data collected daily from an array. Automated resolution is 86%, with 54% of issues being attributed to problems outside of the array itself, i.e. configuration and integration problems with storage networking, hosts, and applications.
The latest numbers from IDC put HPE atop the enterprise storage heap, accounting for 20.2% of spending, followed by Dell (18.8%), NetApp (6%), IBM (43%) and Hitachi (4%). While the market was up 14% in the third quarter, to $11.8 billion, flash remains a small, but surging storage segment: the All Flash Array (AFA) market generated almost $1.6 billion in revenue, up 38.1% year over year, and the Hybrid Flash Array (HFA) segment generated $2.3 billion, or 19.1% of the total market.
So HPE is continuing the AI journey begun by Nimble, bringing it first to 3PAR, and ultimately the rest of its portfolio. And after that, it would make obvious sense to expand other to other vendors’ platforms, said the company.
“HPE is in the ideal position to bring this across a very large piece of infrastructure that HPE owns,” said Cohen. In a September interview Whitman talked about the significance of InfoSight in the Nimble acquisition: “We are going to roll InfoSight out to 3Par, and to our server business next. The future is around how do you do A.I. for the data center. We envision a world where everything is done by A.I., and not people sitting in NOCs [network operations centers] saying what to do.”
In a move intended to accelerate the integration across HPE’s ‘full Hybrid IT product portfolio’, it was announced on Wednesday that Bill Philbin, the current storage general manager who led the successful integration earlier this year of Nimble and Infosight software, is taking the CTO for Hybrid IT position. “Looking forward, Bill will lead our long-term technology vision for Hybrid IT,” said Hybrid IT Group Senior Vice President and General Manager Alain Andreoli in an internal memo announcing the management rotation. “This includes advancing the convergence of compute, storage, networking, and integrating Infosight across the entire Hybrid IT portfolio.”
We won’t see a Skynet or pervasive (or invasive — Siri, Google, Watson or HAL) AI Judgement Day for some time, but HPE is betting that the phenomenon will continue to gain momentum. With the growing amount of data, cyberthreats and IT costs spiralling out of control, AI and its associates offer the strong possibility that (Terminator) Salvation is possible, if not probable.
DISCLAIMER: A number of companies mentioned in this article are represented in my investment portfolio.