The Next Big Things in Business Computing

Every company looks for ways to boost productivity. Antonio Neri, president and chief executive of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. HPE -0.61% , which was born from the 2015 split of Hewlett-Packard, spoke about products in the HPE pipeline with Sara Castellanos, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal’s CIO Journal. Edited excerpts follow.

MS. CASTELLANOS: What technology are you most excited about that will add business value in the near future?

MR. NERI: Today we generate almost 1.2 quintillion bytes of data a day. Two years from now, we’re going to have double that amount. Everything will be connected at a scale we haven’t even imagined, and we have to deliver outcomes in a much more accelerated way from a business perspective. We have to be able to cope with that data and extract insights really quickly.

And that’s why we talk about this revolution called memory-centric computing [a technology that’s in the early stages of development and aims to boost calculating speed]. Memory-centric computing is all about making the data the core of the architecture. We believe the first generation of this will be in the next two years.

MS. CASTELLANOS: What kinds of business problems would it be able to solve?

MR. NERI: A great example we are doing today is a project with DZNE, the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, which is seeking Alzheimer’s cures. Studies around the globe are collecting massive amounts of data; we can make it available in a single accessible memory, then be able to extract the algorithms and the data aspects of that in an architecture that you couldn’t even imagine today.

MS. CASTELLANOS: Let’s talk about edge computing and the Internet of Things. What’s going on there?

MR. NERI: The definition of the edge is everything outside the data center, even at the far, far edge, which is, for example, devices and things connected. [In edge computing, data is processed and analyzed on or near the device where it’s generated instead of first being sent to a corporate cloud or data center. This way, devices can compute and analyze data in real-time without always relying on connectivity to a corporate cloud.] You think about autonomous cars, smart cities, health care and so forth driving the connectivity and the intelligence needed to be able to provide that digital experience. So we are investing in labs where we bring our partner ecosystems and customers to co-innovate with us. We have opened four IoT innovation labs, and intelligent-edge innovation labs around the globe. Bangalore, Grenoble and Houston are examples.

MS. CASTELLANOS: What’s the main business advantage with edge computing?

MR. NERI: The cloud is great, but because of the latest compliance and the need to extract data real-time, you have to bring the computer and the storage close to where the action is. Eventually, you’re going to have millions of clouds all distributed to the edge.

MS. CASTELLANOS: What are some use cases that you’re most excited about with edge computing? Pick a sector.

MR. NERI: Transportation, health care, smart manufacturing. We have established a great relationship with some vendors people wouldn’t even think about, where automated control systems have to be connected to the network and be able to run, compute and do analytics right there.

We just finished a proof of concept, and now we are scaling, the “smart refinery of the future.” We are able now to predict failures on the pumps and to automate the entire predictive maintenance that goes with it. That small refinery had 100 people. Now they can do it with 50 people.

Edge strategies

MS. CASTELLANOS: How can a CIO experiment with edge computing right now?

MR. NERI: Start with what is your digital transformation strategy. Whatever your industry or sector is, think about how you can enable that digital transformation at the edge where things come together, what people come together, what things are connected.

What value, business outcomes, are you trying to achieve in that environment? From there on, you will realize that you will need some sort of edge strategy.

MS. CASTELLANOS: HPE recently acquired Niara Inc., a company in the machine-learning and cybersecurity space. What does it do?

MR. NERI: Niara monitors behavioral usage and obviously uses machine learning. We integrated that inside our Aruba offering, so we can monitor not just what’s happening in the network itself, with the devices, but the behavior of the user in the network. We can kind of score what’s going on, take action through policy management, and then integrate it with the rest of the security platforms that are out there. We can scale it to millions of things connected to the network.

MS. CASTELLANOS: What cyberthreats will this technology be able to detect as a result of machine learning?

MR. NERI: It’s not just network-access controls and packets measuring and all that. It’s actually at the application level. So we can understand what type of work they are doing, what type of data they are accessing, be able to put some policy and rules around it, and then eventually quarantine people if they are still accessing locations where we believe they should not be doing anything.

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