Enterprise IT firm Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) is looking beyond the cloud era even as it looks to take on established players such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, the company’s global investments, acquisitions and strategy head Vishal Lall told TechCircle.
The senior executive said that after spinning off its PC and printer divisions as a separate company a little more than two years ago, HPE has been focused on getting its long-term strategy right with its startup investment division Pathfinder on the lookout for new ideas and products.
The division has an annual budget of around $100 million (Rs 650 crore), with the option of increasing it should the team need more money.
Lall, whose official designation is senior vice president, chief strategy officer, and head of strategy and venture investments (Pathfinder), said that HPE is looking at startups in the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence spaces apart from cloud infrastructure, which remains a priority.
"The idea is to explore what we can we do in a post-cloud world,” said Lall. “We are looking at startups that are working on technologies that enable workloads to be seamlessly moved across various cloud centres.”
Lall said this would enable customers to seamlessly move from one centre to another as and when they find a better alternative.
For HPE, attracting existing customers will be key to expanding its customer base as it takes on the likes of Google, Amazon and Microsoft. But Lall made it clear that the company was not trying to commoditise the cloud space.
"The differentiating factor has to be software and tools that you provide to the customers make your cloud more attractive," he said.
HPE had earlier acquired two companies, Boston-based Cloud Technology Partners and California-based Nimble Storage, to help companies transition from one cloud to another.
Last year, Lall had led an investment in California-based Hedvig, which provides software-defined storage for enterprises building private, hybrid, or multi-cloud environments.
The above-mentioned Pathfinder programme was started in 2015 and has since invested in 18 companies. Most of these firms are in the US, the UK and Israel.
"We are looking to combine the capabilities of the two entities and when we invest, we are buying into their solutions for our customers," said Lall. “A lot of our customers tell us that they don’t want to go and deal with some 30 companies simultaneously.”
Lall said that HPE does not invest in a startup just because it is a good company, but will only do so if it strategically fits in with HPE's larger product and services portfolio. He added that the division gives HPE visibility on what is happening in the industry to decide on future strategies.
While Lall said that India is increasingly becoming a geography where it finds interesting startups, it has not yet decided to set up a separate office for Pathfinder in the country.
"We have a large office of the labs and engineering division here and the personal networks are wide enough to be aware of a good startup,” said Lall.