Analyst Patrick Moorhead, founder of Moor Strategies & Insights, commended HPE on achieving double-digit growth in networking, storage, and financial services. Those are all “very positive signs” in his view. On the flip side he expressed concern over a 1% decline in server revenue.
Here are a few key threads from the HP Enterprise’s earnings call on Tuesday night.
1: Whitman is staying put
Uber named Dara Khosrowshahi as its new CEO last week, so you might think questions about whether HPE chief executive Meg Whitman wanted that job would fade away. But you would be wrong. On the call, Whitman was asked about her commitment to HP Enterprise amid reports that she had been a candidate for the Uber position.
“I was called in very late in the Uber search, and I said it was an interesting business model—very similar to eBay in some ways in that it has a community of drivers while eBay has a community of sellers,” said Whitman, an investor in Uber who was also previously eBay’s CEO.
But Whitman, who previously denied interest in the Uber post, again stated that she remains focused on HPE. “I’ve dedicated the last six years of my life to this company and there is more work to do here,” she said. “I am actually not going anywhere.”
2: Aruba is the gift that keeps on giving
In 2015, just before splitting into two companies, HP acquired networking gear maker Aruba for $3 billion. One of its spawn, HPE(HPE), ended up owning Aruba, which continues to be a bright spot. For the quarter, Aruba revenue rose 32% year-over year making it the star of HPE’s overall networking lineup that saw overall revenue rise 16%.
Aruba’s gear claims to offer secure wireless connections, a key consideration in the Internet of Things era where millions of devices scattered worldwide require secure wireless connections to each other or to a more central data aggregation point. Aruba does great in this realm, Moorhead said.
3: HPE is still figuring out what to do in low-end servers
For the first and second quarters this year, Whitman said the company will evaluate whether it should be in the business of selling inexpensive servers to large cloud computing companies. Those companies tend to buy cheap servers by the boatload, but at a very low price which means extremely thin profit to HPE.
Selling Cloudline servers to major “tier one” customers like Microsoft is a tough business, Whitman reiterated on the call, referring to HPE’s brand of servers in this category.
“There is a headwind there. This is a lumpy business without much profit, so we need to figure out the long-term answer on Cloudline,” she noted.
Whitman still hasn’t made a decision about whether to stay in the commodity server business, but she promised that the answer would come before the company’s analyst meeting, which is usually in October.
4: Storage was (mostly) a bright spot
Overall HPE sales of all-flash storage rose 32% year over year, led by Nimble Storage, a company HPE acquired in March.. Flash, or solid-state storage, is faster but more expensive than traditional disk storage. Whitman estimated that only 10% of corporate data centers have moved to all-flash, so there’s room to increase sales in that category. But there’s also plenty of competition from traditional rivals like Dell Technologies’ EMC unit and NetApp (NTAP) as well as younger flash pioneers like Pure Storage (PSTG).
On a more sobering note, sales of 3Par mid-range storage systems fell 9% year-over-year in the quarter, showing that demand for storage varies by category.
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5: HPE will help businesses pick the right IT path
Whitman has said repeatedly that HPE is all about helping business customers deploy their IT where it makes most sense, whether that is in their internal server rooms, in a public cloud like Microsoft Azure (HPE’s preferred public cloud partner, Whitman stressed), or in some combination of the two. That strategy drove HPE’s acquisition of Cloud Technology Partners, announced earlier Tuesday. Terms of that deal were not disclosed.
CTP helps customers figure out where their applications and data should reside. “A core part of our strategy is to make IT simple, and CTP helps with that,” Whitman said.