One month into its new life as an independent firm, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) held its first conference, Discover 2015, in London. The highlights were a mobile-first enterprise platform from WiFi subsidiary Aruba, and a suite of products called Edgeline, which allow significant proportions of IoT data to be processed and filtered near its source via gateways at the edge of the network. Both these flesh out HPE’s strategy of collecting, sharing, analyzing and managing all the rising tide of data that an enterprise or vertical organization produces. That involves integrating network, hardware and software offerings into a single framework which, while supporting open standards for connectivity, data formats and SDN (software-defined networking), still makes it very hard for a customer to break out of the walled garden.
Edgeline addresses the need to reduce the amount of data that needs to be transmitted to a central server – inhouse of cloud – for processing and analytics. A large amount of information garnered from mobile and embedded devices is of no value; or conversely, needs to be acted on immediately and close to its source. In both cases, time and resources are wasted by sending it to a central platform. Performing more functions at the edge is important to reduce the strain on the wide area networks, especially if they are wireless; and to improve response times for near-real time or low latency applications such as critical infrastructure monitoring.
The new HPE suite combines computing, networking and software capabilities and is part of the broader IoT Initiative, one of HPE’s first announcements since it was split off from the ‘other HP’ (HP Inc, which will concentrate on consumer products such as printers).
On the hardware side, it is based around edge gateways co-developed with Intel, which is particularly focused on securing dominance for its x86 architecture in these distributed platforms. While it will be a tough battle for rival ARM-based processors to break into its stronghold in the central servers (where inhouse designs by Google and Facebook are the greater threat), smaller platforms are vulnerable. Ultra-low power blades for cloud centers, elements of virtualized networks, and edge-based gateways are all targets for ARM’s ecosystem, so Intel needs to strike quickly. It has launched a string of IoT gateway system-on-chip offerings and has announced alliances focused on MEC with Nokia, Dell and now HPE (even though HP has been an early triallist of ARM-based alternatives in cloud servers).
The two initial gateways, the HPE IoT System EL10 and EL20, are available now and are the first results of an Intel partnership announced last month, which will work on gateways based both on the Core i5 and the lower-power Atom chip families. Future models will be more architecturally radical, harnessing HPE’s Moonshot system design, which was created initially for power-efficient hyperscale data centers but is being extended throughout the IoT infrastructure.
There are Moonshot-based servers based both on Intel Xeon and Atom, and 64-bit ARM-based processors (Applied Micro’s X-Gene). The architecture employs a novel design to reduce energy and space requirements and is the heart of HPE’s bid to dominate the server business again. It integrates video encoding software for quad play operators, and a host of applications development tools. Each server is a small and very dense cartridge that can slot into a Moonshot chassis, with shared power and cooling supplies, or can be used in a small standalone box for web servers or gateways.
The current Edgeline boxes can process the data which does not need to be sent to a central resource – as much as 90% in some applications; can send aggregated results to other more centralized locations; and can also manage the connected devices and sensors. The EL10 is the entry level platform, while the EL20 is for more demanding, high volume tasks. Both will be available in ruggedized, mobile and rack-mounted versions. HPE is targeting them at industrial, logistics, transportation, healthcare, government and retail sectors.
Both are certified to work with the Microsoft Azure IoT Suite, echoing HPE’s strong commitment to the Azure cloud, having abandoned its own cloud platform efforts.
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