HPE Emphasizing Software As Part of Pivot to As-a-Service Vision

HPE Discover Virtual Experience wrapped up last week, but I have much to think about and report. The HPE team did an excellent job pulling together a conference where we saw many different living rooms and home offices. Tough job; well done.

The release of a new software portfolio from HPE may sound more to the interest of enterprise architects, but I have already seen demos of where this also aids the coming together of OT and IT in order to bring the production side of an enterprise into more of a value to the enterprise. This is important toward the counteracting of recent enterprise history where production was a “black box” and corporate financial geniuses viewed it as something that could be moved around chasing low cost.

From the blog of Kumar Sreekanti, CTO and head of software at HPE, we learn about the coming together of Ezmeral—brand name for the software portfolio.

Digital transformation is being amplified by an order of magnitude. In fact, many business leaders that I’ve spoken with are now embracing a digital-first strategy—to compete and thrive in the midst of a global pandemic. And the enterprises that use data and artificial intelligence effectively are better equipped to evolve rapidly in this dynamic environment. Now these data-driven transformation initiatives are being accelerated to enable faster time-to-market, increased innovation, and greater responsiveness to the business and their customers.

As CTO and head of software at HPE, my focus is on delivering against our edge-to-cloud strategy and vision of providing everything as a service. Software is a very critical and important component of this strategy. It’s also essential to helping our customers succeed in their data-driven digital transformation journeys, now more than ever.

We’re committed to providing a differentiated portfolio of enterprise software to help modernize your applications, unlock insights from your data, and automate your operations—from edge to cloud. Today, we announced that we’ve unified our software portfolio with a new brand: HPE Ezmeral.

The HPE Ezmeral portfolio allows you to:

  • Run containers and Kubernetes at scale to modernize apps, from edge to cloud
  • Manage your apps, data, and ops – leveraging AI and analytics for faster time-to-insights
  • Ensure control for governance, compliance, and lower costs
  • Provide enterprise-grade security and authentication to reduce risk

Business innovation relies on applications and data. The apps and data running the enterprise now live everywhere—in data centers, in colocation centers, at the edge, and in the cloud. Most of the applications running businesses today are primarily non-cloud-native; and data is everywhere, with more and more data being generated at edge. Our customers are having real issues with non-cloud-native systems that will not or cannot move to the public cloud due to data gravity, latency, application dependency, and regulatory compliance reasons. Data has gravity, so our customers want to bring compute to the data not data to the compute. And because data is exploding, it’s driving the need for AI and machine learning at enterprise-scale—with the ability to harness and leverage petabytes of data.

Our customers want flexibility and openness; they want to eliminate lock-in. They want pay-per-use consumption in an as-a-service model. They want open solutions that give them the best of both worlds—with a modern cloud experience in any location, from edge to cloud. We address these needs by providing HPE GreenLake in the environment of your choice, with a consistent operating model, and with visibility and governance across all enterprise applications and data. Our software provides differentiated IP to deliver these cloud services through HPE GreenLake.

And in today’s news, we announced new cloud services from HPE GreenLake. This includes new HPE GreenLake cloud services for containers and machine learning operations—powered by our HPE Ezmeral Container Platform software to run containerized applications with open source Kubernetes, and HPE Ezmeral ML Ops software to operationalize the machine learning model lifecycle.

HPE Solidifies New Direction With As-a-Service and Software Direction

Antonio Neri, a scant two years into the position of President and CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), laid out a vision and roadmap last year to make the company “the global edge-to-cloud platform as-a-service company” which develops and delivers “enterprise technology solutions and services that help organizations accelerate outcomes by unlocking value from all of their data, everywhere.”

This year he unveiled new executive leadership–one heading GreenLake, the as-a-Service portion of the vision, and the other heading Ezmeral, the newly defined software portfolio and direction–and showed how far the vision has come in a year.

I am impressed with the speed and consistency of this pivot.

HPE Discover, the annual conference usually held in Las Vegas, went totally online this year. This was my sixth or seventh of these within four weeks, and by far the best. Kudos to the communications team for pulling this all together. I attended as an Influencer, and the global leader assembled an outstanding group (except for me) and a good program for us to meet as much of the leadership as possible.

I will write indepth specifically about GreenLake and Ezmeral and sustainability and helping restart work following COVID-19–and perhaps most important for you, my industrial audience–Aruba Edge Orchestrator.

Why do I take all the time and effort to attend these enterprise and IT events?

Let me share one example. I sat in two sessions specifically talking industrial applications.

In the first, an engineering leader from Stanley Black & Decker spoke of his IoT project using HPE’s Edgeline compute platform at almost every level of the manufacturing stack. Edgeline is an industrialized version of HPE’s high performance compute platform. I have seen examples in previous Discover events from off-shore oil platforms and a refinery in Texas. This is one of the points where the reality of “IT/OT Convergence” hits home.

The other session featured HPE Fellow and VP of HPE Labs Dr. Tom Bradicich detailing the vision of data–from analog data (which he has been discussing with me since his days at NI several years ago) to the edge to the cloud.

You can visit HPE.com and register for the event for a while, yet. Click sessions and search for keywords such as IoT, edge, and so forth to watch the on-demand videos. Yet another benefit of the “virtual experience.”

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Updates With GE Digital

GE Digital had not updated me for a while. So, an invitation to a conversation with new GE Digital CTO Colin Parris was welcome—even if in the middle of several virtual user conferences. Naturally we talked about digitalization, something GE Digital was early to the game with. Also AI. Digital Twin continues to form the base of the company’s strategy.

Most welcome, there was no talk of optimization and Six Sigma. Instead business transformation through Lean plus Control plus Digital Twin was the focus of conversation.

As an example of the importance of digitization, he discussed a business that was so focused on optimization that it didn’t want to invest in digital. Then COVID came knocking. The company had been reluctant to digitize, but did it in five days when forced to when employees had to work from home. It then improved the system over the ensuing three months.

Here is another example Parris related.

The Prime Minister of India asked citizens to turn off their lights for nine minutes in a show of solidarity in the fight against COVID-19. With meticulous planning by India’s Power System Operation Corporation (POSOCO), national and state agencies, and supported by the GE Digital Grid Software team and Advanced Energy Management System (AEMS) solutions, the nation’s power grid withstood a 31- gigawatt drop and recovery.

When the request came down, POSOCO and its extended team of national and state agencies had less than 60 hours to prepare. For 1.3 billion consumers this would be a simple, yet powerful, way to unite with their fellow countrymen and the world, but it would also put tremendous stress on the nation’s power grid. A sudden decrease in demand could cause grid instability, leading to system collapse.

Due to national lockdowns associated with the pandemic, the normal daily peak demand of 160 GW had already fallen by 50 GW due to the significant reduction in demand from the commercial and industrial sectors. For the April 5 “lights out” event, POSOCO estimated a reduction in demand of 12 GW within two to four minutes. Power systems can handle gradual drops, but a sudden drop caused by lights switching off across the nation risked collapsing the world’s largest synchronous grid. Consumers would expect the power to return at full capacity at the end of the nine-minute vigil.

Preparations to meet the unprecedented reduction in load and recovery began in earnest on April 3 to create and test guidelines for reliable grid operations across POSOCO’s five regions. Hydro and gas generators, which require the least amount of time for ramp-up, were tested the morning of April 5. The Ministry of Power announced that the country’s electricity grid was robust, stable and ready to handle the demand.

At 9:00 pm on April 5, an estimated 80% of the nation’s citizens (approximately a billion people) turned off their lights and illuminated candles, lamps and flashlights in a show of national strength and unity. The resulting power drop and recovery was 31 GW – more than double the projections, but by connecting with control centers remotely, observing key parameters, and continuously monitoring system health, POSOCO was able to provide uninterrupted supply to consumers.

Given India’s strict lockdown response to COVID-19, the GE Digital teams were not able to hold in-person planning meetings, but by using GE Digital’s remote work capabilities, the team’s engineers were able to support POSOCO while working safely from their own homes.

I also received update information about GE Digital’s APM 4.4 (Asset Performance Management).

  • GE Digital’s APM 4.4 uses Digital Twins, Advanced Visualizations, and improved Connectivity to help Asset and Process Intensive Companies in Power Generation, Oil & Gas and Chemical Processing Industries to Rapidly Reduce Costs while Adapting to Changing Market Conditions
  • Power Generation companies using existing APM solutions enjoy availability / uptime increases of up to 20%; with O&M Cost Reduction up to millions of dollars per year
  • Oil & Gas and Chemical Processing companies using APM enjoy up to 6% improvements in availability, up to 40% reductions in reactive maintenance and up to 20% reduction in costs associated with Health, Safety and Environment issues

Available both as a cloud and on-premises solution, APM allows companies in asset and process intensive industries like Oil & Gas, Chemical and Power Generation to align key technologies with critical work processes and functions across their businesses.

This release has focused on driving tighter integration across capabilities within the APM solution as well as to existing systems such as Enterprise Asset Management / Computerized Maintenance Management System (EAM/CMMS) solutions. In addition, APM focuses on automating work processes with enhancements to allow users to automate tasks and provide a more seamless experience to have the right information at the right time to make critical business decisions.

“Our software helps customers to better operate, analyze and optimize their business processes with simplicity, speed and scale,” said Linda Rae, General Manager, GE Digital Power Generation and Oil & Gas. “APM helps industrial companies to efficiently and rapidly reduce costs while adapting to changing market conditions. With more than 30 years’ experience delivering software for our partners in industry, we’re always learning how to help them rise to today’s challenges.”

The latest APM release added more than 30 new Digital Twin blueprints for Oil & Gas, Chemical, Fossil and Nuclear Power Generation as well as Mining, to its catalog of more than 300 pre-configured analytic and diagnostic models for various equipment classes and systems across industries. Built by reliability subject matter experts, the blueprints monitor asset health by detecting degradation or performance loss across the asset or system to provide a diagnostic recommendation. This significantly reduces the time to value for our customers, with built-in detection and remediation information guidance.

Several new reports are also available for predictive diagnostic users including Sensor Health Reporting and the Predictive Diagnostic Coverage report. These help users understand diagnostic coverage relative to an asset’s designed capabilities.

For Predix APM cloud customers, Advanced Visualization capabilities are being introduced to enable rich dashboarding, analysis, and reporting on APM alerts, cases, and more. Dashboards are now available through the integration of a Business Intelligence (BI) tool for additional dashboarding capabilities.

GE Digital has also announced enhancements and unlimited availability of Predix APM for European customers via its Frankfurt, Germany operations center. In partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS), GE has made technology investments to enhance customer experience and further support GDPR regulations.

The GE Digital APM Roadmap continues to advance the state of technologies for APM as well as features and functions. APM 4.4is now generally available from GE Digital. More information can be found here.

People and Data—the Most Important Assets

This week I attended the AVEVA World customer conference sitting on my patio with a bank of computers on the table. It’s always nice to catch up with the latest from technology suppliers, even if we couldn’t meet in person and have all those informative hallway conversations.

Next week I’ll be attending three conferences, something that would have been a physical impossibility only a few months ago. Looks like all of my anticipated conference trips have been cancelled until November.

I must begin with a note regarding the AVEVA/Schneider Electric relationship. If you go back a few years, Schneider Electric made a rather large and significant acquisition. It kept the Foxboro and Triconex (and a few other) brands and used the software parts—Wonderware and Avantis and some others—as an investment into an engineering software company called AVEVA. As a result, Schneider Electric owns just over a majority of the shares in the publicly traded software company. And, therefore, Schneider Electric played a significant minor role in this conference.

Schneider’s chairman and CEO, Jean-Pascal Tricoire, said, “AVEVA should be agnostic. Our customers don’t have just one system but have the problem of integrating the complexity of having more than one system. AVEVA is completely open. We are independent companies working closely with each other.”

Craig Hayman, CEO of AVEVA, noted during his keynote address, “We’ve pivoted to emphasize digital. We recognize that people and data are the two most important assets. We do this technology in order to make people successful. Businesses have the great responsibility to protect employees and customers. We’re seeing the power of data and analytics helping companies respond to incidents as they occur and operate assets as efficiently as possible.” Indeed, digital, data, and people were the keywords of the event.

In further remarks, Tricoire emphasized “Digital Trust and Sustainability”. He shared how COVID-19 has accelerated existing digital trends, encouraging more efficiency, “remote everything,” greater resilience, and for sustainability to mitigate and adapt to primary threats of both the pandemic and climate change. He said, “Faced with a very volatile environment, companies need superior agility, and increased efficiency. This means they need increased capacity on one side, resiliency on the other side. The overall winner is digitalization. And the need for digitalization has been further reinforced by companies new need to operate remotely, for higher efficiency, and ultimately, for much better sustainability.”

Guest customer keynoter, Saad Bashir, CTO of the City of Seattle, speaking on “Digital Agility in the Age of COVID-19” shared his thoughts on what happened in Seattle when the pandemic hit. “Although we had planned for digital resiliency for some time, we didn’t really know how it would go until one morning all 30,000 people in our team decided to stay home and log on.” Although the team’s resiliency plans have held up well, Saad adds, “We’ve already seen opportunities from the lessons learned and one that’s worth highlighting is digital resiliency…with a unified view of our infrastructure with systems that are seamlessly connected so that they can inform decisions.”

Much discussion involved both Cloud and Edge—you must develop both, can’t have one without the other.

Ravi Gopinath, AVEVA Chief Cloud Officer and COO discussed cloud and AI. He noted four areas of investment—new way of engineering; new way of visualization; reliability and safe operations; drive agility. Develop cloud on one side and AI on the other. The cloud strengths—deploy applications easily, low TCO, enable flexible consumption, and enhance collaboration. AI provides—analysis, prediction, guidance, learning. Leading to Digital Twin, Big Data, and Industrial IoT and Edge.

The press release coming from the event focused on Schneider Electric, who announced expanded partnerships with AVEVA, Lenovo and Stratus to address the convergence of IT and OT. This partnership is bringing together system integrators with IT solution providers to build integrated industrial edge computing solutions resulting in the immediate release of three programs to empower system integrators to expand their value to end users, enabling their customers’ industrial digital transformations.

These programs include:

      Industrial edge reference designs: Co-developed with AVEVA, including solutions from Lenovo and Stratus, these reference designs reduce risk and time to market with fully customizable, pre-integrated EcoStruxure Micro Data Center solutions for any edge environment. With secure solutions designed to meet IT standards, system integrators can free up time from the IT architecture to focus on the software and solutions. These reference designs are available in Schneider Electric’s Local Edge Configurator and can be customized to specifications.
      A digital training program for system integrators: Edge computing continues to prove itself as a space for opportunity for system integrators to extend business models and establish their roles as consultants. This learning program includes a comprehensive digital training series for system integrators on Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure Micro Data Center and EcoStruxure IT solutions to help address common challenges at the edge.
      The Industrial Edge Exchange Community: Built within Schneider Electric Exchange, the Industrial Edge Community allows system integrators to easily identify and engage with edge-certified IT solution providers. It is designed to facilitate new business and address IT/OT projects, and features a tool that pairs Alliance System Integrators with Schneider Electric’s Edge-certified IT Channel Partners.

    “The smart factory is becoming smarter. Our expanded partnerships and new industrial edge programs empower system integrators to leverage their domain expertise and become IT/OT convergence specialists and meet these needs for their customers,” said Philippe Rambach, Senior Vice President, Industrial Automation, Schneider Electric. “We know that smart manufacturing is driving an unprecedented wave of IT technologies into industrial spaces. As companies leverage AI, robotic processing automation, and more, they will require edge computing solutions to reduce latency and enable resiliency, while ensuring privacy and security, and addressing important data and bandwidth requirements.”

    What is the Industrial Edge?

    For industrial operators to capture the benefits of increased automation, they cannot rely on cloud-technology alone to bring the resiliency and speed demanded by AI, HD cameras, and other Industry 4.0 technologies. Local edge data centers are IT infrastructure enclosures/spaces/facilities distributed geographically to enable endpoints on the network. When in industrial environments such as a manufacturing plant or distribution center, this application is referred to as “industrial edge.”

    Zero-touch Edge Computing Platform Simplifies Deployment

    I remember Stratus Technologies for years as a fault-tolerant server company that was almost alone exhibiting at manufacturing events. It has been an aggressive innovator for the past several years. This was just released today.

    The company now bills itself as a global leader in simplified, protected, autonomous Edge Computing platforms. It today unveiled enhancements to its ztC Edge portfolio, which includes the ztC Edge 100i and ztC Edge 110i. This update delivers an improved and more efficient deployment and provisioning experience to help organizations quickly install the zero-touch Edge Computing platforms across multiple locations. In addition, new manageability, security, and performance enhancements will help partners and customers reduce their cost of operations and maintenance, minimize risk of data loss, and ensure high availability for all business-critical operations.

    The ztC Edge is a secure, rugged, highly automated Edge Computing platform that helps organizations achieve peak performance through increased operational efficiency and zero downtime at the edge. With its built-in virtualization, automated protection, industrial interoperability and more, ztC Edge ensures that customers can quickly and easily achieve higher availability for their essential applications.

    Improved Manageability

    • ztC Edge system settings and user preferences can now quickly and easily be stored to a local drive or the Stratus Cloud. Simplified system backup and restoration will help companies save time by automating certain processes and reducing user error.
    • Different templates can be created and archived for different use cases, workloads, or locations, making commissioning systems more efficient and accurate. Organizations can use these templates to rapidly provision single, or multiple ztC Edge platforms from remote areas. This is especially important for partners who implement and manage multiple platforms across multiple customers’ facilities and properties, making it easier for them to support systems and applications from one off-site location remotely.
    • The latest version of the ztC Edge is Microsoft Azure certified, with integration capabilities embedded in the platform for simple systems management and faster time to value for customers.

    Improved Security

    • The ztC Edge 110i update introduces a new secure, cloud-based file repository, called the Stratus Cloud, for partners and customers to safely transmit, store and retrieve their ztC Edge system preference templates. Unlike other third-party cloud offerings, Stratus Cloud automatically authenticates users and groups using the same credentials as their Stratus Customer Service Portal account, saving partners and customers time and effort.

    Increased Performance

    • The ztC Edge 110i also comes with expanded 64 GB memory capacity to support a broader range of memory-intensive industrial workloads, giving customers more choice and flexibility in consolidating multiple applications (such as SCADA) on one machine – saving costs and increasing agility.
    • ztC Edge 110i platforms are now Class I Division 2 certified, making them safe to deploy in hazardous locations. This certification allows ztC Edge to be implemented in a wider variety of industrial settings with more significant environmental variability.

    The ztC Edge’s built-in virtualization makes applications portable, while the computing platform also provides greater availability, resilience, and data protection than other platforms. Numerous out-of-the-box capabilities improve the security of customers’ ztC Edge platforms, thus upgrading their security posture and mitigating risk. ztC Edge platforms also support common OT and IT protocols, tools, and standards, such as SNMP and OPC UA, which makes them easy to integrate into, and work with, existing environments, saving partners and customers time.

    “One of the biggest threats to customers is adding technology that is undependable and not secure. Customers should never have to worry about these risks when modernizing their Edge Computing capabilities,” said Jason Andersen, vice president of business line management at Stratus. “For some organizations, having highly reliable and protected platforms in place is imperative to the success of their business. They depend on these platforms to be ‘always-on’, secure, and able to run in any environment without human monitoring, maintenance, repairs, or support.”

    “With 40 years of experience protecting business-critical applications and environments, our ztC Edge platform has evolved to address challenges around performance, security, and manageability for computing at the edge,” said Jason Dietrich, chief revenue officer at Stratus. “Stratus partners can trust they are providing customers simple, protected and autonomous Edge Computing solutions that will maximize their operational efficiency while minimizing their operational, financial and reputational risk.”

    Digital Transformation Strategies

    I finally got some time to collect my thoughts about Wednesday’s virtual conference. There was a bit of Rockwell Automation at the PTC LiveWorx. Wednesday was Rockwell’s turn with ROKLive–the latest, and virtual, iteration of its distributor education series RSTechED and RATechED.

    At times over the years, journalists, editors, and writers were not invited to TechEDs. Then they invited us and we sat in sessions. They’ve tried a few executive education days during these events–usually June and usually alternating between Orlando and San Diego. This year was to have been co-located with new partner PTC’s event–until Covid-19 and quarantine.

    I received an invitation and link to check out the Digital Transformation track. (Although a refresher on programming PLCs, networking, and drives would have been OK, too.)

    This was pretty high level with former P&G vp and consultant Tony Saldanha, Microsoft’s Caglayan Arkan, Gartner’s, Ivar Berntz, LNS’s Matt Littlefield, Cisco’s Paul Didier, and at the end of the day two presenters from Rockwell, Mick Mancuso and Jeff Botsch. There were many more. Some time slots had two speakers and some had three.

    A few speakers got pretty high-leveled, but many practical tips came out.

    On the one hand, OEE came out a few times. I’m not a fan–mostly because of data collection methodology. You cannot use OEE as a comparison because within the formula are many definitions and common definitions plant-to-plant seldom exist. In fact, one Rockwell presenter acknowledged as much.

    While Saldanha was speaking, he mentioned that MRP II (or its ideas) was still in widespread use. That is disheartening. I learned and implemented that way back in the late 70s. I’d hope that everyone had moved way past that by now.

    Tips I gleaned from the talks

    • Be data driven
    • We’re benchmarking the wrong companies, you’re competitors are likely to be startups
    • When looking for digital transformation projects, look for the 10x opportunities
    • Focus on solving problems, not just applying technology
    • Consider business objectives first
    • People are key, and be aware of workforce issues such as turnover, retirements, training (and I should add diversity)
    • Key is to develop agile plants and agile supply chains
    • Develop healthy change management processes
    • Pay attention to governance issues

    I have several more virtual conferences this week. I miss meeting the people, but these have not been as painful as I feared.