In the early days of cloud technology, it was almost a given that any business moving workloads to the cloud would be using AWS. Such was the dominance that Amazon rapidly established.

Traditional server vendors, including HPE, were initially left floundering in Amazon’s wake, but it didn’t take them long to respond to this new desire for cloud-like operations. HPE’s first offering came in the form of private cloud initiatives. This enabled companies loyal to HPE to take advantage of cloud-like services without the need to move to a third-party supplier.

limitations of private cloud

HPE’s first private cloud offerings had its limitations. One of the key advantages of AWS was its ability to provision new servers quickly; this wasn’t possible with this type of private cloud.

It also lacked the crucial element of pay-as-you go: that ability to make the most of per-usage pricing, something that continues to delight CFOs.

In addition, what HPE meant by private cloud was really extensive use of virtualisation on existing privately managed hardware. There was nothing wrong with that, of course, but it couldn’t match the degree of flexibility being offered by AWS and its competitors.

The HPE GreenLake initiative

HPE’s response to this was to launch the GreenLake initiative, a way to bring the cloud to on-premises datacentres. The GreenLake system (hardware and software) is delivered and managed by HPE, but the cost for this infrastructure is consumption based – essentially customers only pay for the compute and storage that they actually use.

That simplicity of cost, coupled with on-premises or private datacentre infrastructure, makes for a compelling proposition, especially for any organisations working within highly regulated industries. But the intrinsic flexibility baked into GreenLake makes it an even more attractive option.

Public cloud versus HPE GreenLake

The beauty of a public cloud solution such as AWS is its flexibility. If you need more headroom, simply spin up another instance. Then spin it back down when that need passes.

With on-premises or private cloud infrastructure, organisations would often overprovision their hardware needs to ensure that they had that headroom when required. This meant paying for hardware that was rarely (if ever) utilised to its full potential.

GreenLake offers similar levels of elasticity to public cloud, giving customers the flexibility to increase or decrease usage models dependent on need, while only paying for what is actually used. There’s even the option to increase or reduce the number of active CPU cores, with no need for engineers or hardware upgrades – the extra cores are there from the outset, but you only pay for them when you use them.

GreenLake isn’t a “one size fits all” solution either. Just as AWS offers its customers a range of different services, so HPE provides options tailored to its users. These are based on different hardware products, according to needs, while HPE also provides the underlying software, ensuring smooth management.

Refining GreenLake

Since the launch of GreenLake, HPE has constantly refined the services that’s offered. Last year, at the HPE Discover conference, the company introduced several different products to meet the need for more sophisticated cloud support.

In particular, it launched GreenLake for Private Cloud Enterprise. This provided customers with the ability to deploy workloads on bare metal, virtual machines or containers, taking account of the need for cloud-native services and obviating the requirement to use virtualisation.

HPE also claims that customers will have a much more manageable and predictable usage bill every month, with no sudden shocks – as can happen with traditional cloud access. All the management is handled by HPE, reducing the cost of personnel.

A mature product

GreenLake customers are therefore being offered very similar services to those offered by the big cloud providers. The only limitation (although some would argue it is in advantage) is that the choice of equipment and services are dependent on a single vendor rather than a range of options.

That said, GreenLake does support a range of software and services, including AWS and Microsoft Azure. 

The HPE GreenLake system does have its limitations, but it has proved a popular way for enterprises to manage the demands placed on a modern business, without radically overhauling their setups.

Maxwell Cooter
Maxwell Cooter

Although Max trained to be a programmer, he quickly found his vocation in journalism. He was the founder editor of Cloud Pro, the UK's first dedicated cloud publication and has written for dozens of titles, including The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph. At TechFinitive he writes about cloud computing and data.