HP Enterprise Touts Dropbox Deal to Show Its Hardware Is Still Relevant

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Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman laughs as she speaks with members of the business community at the Boise Centre, Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014 in Boise, Idaho. (AP Photo/The Idaho Statesman, Kyle Green) LOCAL TELEVISION OUT (KTVB 7); MANDATORY CREDIT
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A few months ago, Dropbox disclosed it had moved 90% of its storage business away from Amazon Web Services to internally managed data centers. While there had been rumblings about this move before it came to light, it was still surprising in that most of the corporate computing and storage workloads of the current era have been moving into, rather than away from, public cloud infrastructure as exemplified by AWS.

Yesterday, HP Enterprise (HPE) chief executive Meg Whitman said her company was instrumental in making that transition happen.

Dropbox signed on for HPE Proliant and Cloudline servers in a deal financed by HPE Financial Services, Whitman told attendees of the HPE Discover conference in Las Vegas, according to trade publication CRN. The servers were modified to suit Dropbox requirements, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Dropbox Magic Pocket

HPE, like other legacy hardware makers, has struggled in an era where big “web-scale” companies, like Amazon (AMZN), Microsoft (MSFT), Facebook (FB), and others are more likely to buy inexpensive unbranded servers built to their specifications instead of name-brand boxes. That’s one reason that HPE, then known as Hewlett-Packard, inked a deal with Chinese contract manufacturer Foxconn to build low-end servers for HP to sell into such accounts. Hence, Cloudline servers were born.

Dropbox, which stores and manages data of what it claims are 500 million users, is a big win for HPE, although some would question whether any deal of this size would be sourced to a single vendor. (A source close to the deal said HPE is one of several hardware providers in this case albeit an “important one.”)

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In the transition from AWS to Dropbox infrastructure, hundreds of petabytes had to be moved under the covers, Houston said, according to CRN. “It is like trying to swap out the engines on a jet mid-flight without any of our customers-passengers knowing,” Houston said.

But, as in most of these big vendor love fests, both sides got some business. HPE got a big hardware sale and Dropbox got a big paying customer with HPE becoming one of 150,000 companies that pay to use Dropbox.The San Francisco company does not disclose how many of its users overall pay for the Dropbox Business version as opposed to using free accounts. (In last week’s Salesforce (CRM) and Amazon Web Services news, Salesforce said it will use a lot more Amazon cloud services and Amazon employees now have rights to use all of Salesforce’s products.)

Also at the Discover event, HPE became the latest in a parade of tech vendors to declare it is “all in” with Docker containers, with plans to ship Docker preinstalled on select HPE servers and to provide Docker support.

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