This past week saw some key news items from some of the tech industry’s biggest vendors. In this week’s ZKast video, done in conjunction with eWEEK, I discuss why NVIDIA’s GTC event has become so important, my thoughts from Microsoft Ignite, why Cisco closing its acquisition is so important and what HPE’s quarterly results signify.
NVIDIA announces dates for GPU
GPU market leader NVIDIA recently announced that its GPU Technology Conference (GTC) will be held from April 12-16, 2021 in digital format. The evolution of GTC has been interesting to watch because it’s evolved from a niche conference focused on gamers and developers to a massive show with broad IT appeal.
Most vendors have user conferences, but a handful of these events have been elevated into industry trade shows than vendor-specific events. AWS re:Invent in the area of cloud and Cisco Live in networking are examples of other conferences that have evolved from vendor specific events to a conference with industrywide appeal. Over the past few years, NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang’s GTC keynotes have been a good mix of industry vision and product announcements.
Anyone interested in artificial intelligence (AI), accelerated computing, cyber security, data center evolution, health care or networking should attend. Given how fast these markets have been evolving, my expectations for GTC 2021 are high.
Satya Nadella talks cloud at Microsoft Ignite
Microsoft held its digital Ignite event last week, which was kicked off by its CEO, Satya Nadella. The main theme of Nadella’s keynote was the cloud and how it will change the world over the next decade. He stated that Microsoft has been “all in” on cloud for over a decade and that the cloud will drive the next level of broad economic growth that everyone can participate in. To accomplish this, he provided five key attributes that will drive the next generation of innovation in the cloud.
- Ubiquitous and decentralized computing. This is essentially the shift from centralized clouds to edge computing and is a change that I’ve written about extensively. The focus on customer and employee experience, dictates that workloads and data need to move closer to the user. The next wave of cloud will be a distributed architecture comprising public and private clouds as well as edge locations. One word of caution in that distributed clouds will be significantly more complex than traditional ones and we should expect to see a rise in startups aiming to solve this complexity. Volterra (recently acquired by F5), which I recently reviewed on eWEEK, is a great example of this.
- Sovereign data and ambient intelligence. As I mentioned above, distributed cloud puts more data in more places faster than ever before driving the need for better data protection and more intelligence. As more things get connected to the network, they become smarter and are able to make decisions on their own. This has huge privacy and data governance implications to protect people’s personal information.
- Empowered creators and communities, everywhere. One of the benefits of the ubiquitous reach of the cloud is it makes computers available to everyone, anywhere. Nadella discussed how the next decade “will require technology advances that radically democratize creation” and the need to expand access to skills, tools and platforms.
- Expanded opportunity for every member of the global workforce. Nadella talked about the need to create better feedback loops between work, skills and learning as well as the jobs of today and tomorrow. Here’s an area that I thought Nadella missed the mark. Much of his talk was in regard to traditional workers but the cloud doesn’t just empower the global workforce. Rather it empowers everyone across the globe, bringing opportunities to every region of the world. He may have meant that, but it didn’t come across that way.
- Trust by design. Nadella made a strong statement when he said that a technology provider should only succeed when it helps the world around it succeed. However, it seemed he took a bit of a shot at AWS when he stated, “No customer wants to be dependent on a provider that sells them technology on one end and competes with them on the other,” referring to the fact that Amazon can compete with retailers that use AWS services. He didn’t specifically say AWS or Amazon, but the implication was certainly there. Given AWS’s share compared to Microsoft’s, if Nadella was referring to AWS as his chief rival, AWS has significantly more share than Azure. If the ultimate sign of trust is who you do business with, AWS is winning.
Cisco closes Acacia
This week Cisco closed the acquisition of high-speed optical interconnect vendor, Acacia. If you had not followed the news, Cisco had previously announced its intent to acquire the company for $2.6 billion pending regulatory approval within the timeframe contemplated by the merger agreement. Earlier this year, Acacia tried to terminate the agreement claiming the time frame was not met. This created a situation that looked like it was going to get messy as each company was threatening legal action.
To its credit, instead of going down this route, Cisco reworked the deal for $4.5 billion, a hefty premium over the previous offer. Despite having to pay more, this is a great acquisition for Cisco and well worth the extra $1.9 billion. It’s my belief that, if an acquisition is a good one, it’s hard to overpay. For example, Cisco acquired Selsius to move into the VoIP space. Even if it had paid 5x what the purchase price was, it still would have been a great acquisition as it transformed Cisco and it’s made billions on that technology since.
Acacia has the same impact. The company makes coherent optical components, which enables more bandwidth to be transmitted over optical connections than with traditional optics. The need for more speed has shifted optics from being the traditional chassis-based line systems to pluggable technology, simplifying operations. Given the 400 Gig transition coming, the acquisition seems perfectly timed.
Aruba Networking carries the rest of HPE
Last week Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) announced its first quarter 2021 earnings. The company reported better than expected earnings of $6.83 billion, down from $6.95 billion a year ago. Most of the business units were flat to down. For example, high performance computing was down 9% year over year, compute dropped 1% and storage revenue fell 5%. However, the Intelligent Edge business unit, composed primarily of Aruba, was up 11%, which was its third consecutive quarter of sequential growth.
In 2015, HPE purchased Aruba Networks and it did a very smart thing. Instead of rolling Aruba into HPE and making it part of another business unit, it let Aruba continue to run itself. A year after the acquisition closed, former CEO of Aruba, Dominic Orr joked that his company had acquired HPE networking when HP acquired them.
However, you want to characterize it, the strategy worked, and Aruba has continued to drive innovation in the areas of security, WiFi and wired networking. Most recently the business unit purchased SD-WAN vendor, Silver Peak, giving HPE the ability to deliver a true end to end network that spans everything between the user device and the cloud.
Zeus Kerravala is an eWEEK regular contributor and the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. He spent 10 years at Yankee Group and prior to that held a number of corporate IT positions. Kerravala is considered one of the top 10 IT analysts in the world by Apollo Research, which evaluated 3,960 technology analysts and their individual press coverage metrics.