HPE's Next Advantage: CEO Neri Is Taking The Company's Customer- And Partner-First Legacy To New Heights

When Antonio Neri became CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise on Feb. 1, he couldn't help but think of the long journey that had brought him to the moment that he now refers to as "living the dream."

It's a journey that in many ways began in earnest when Neri was a wildly curious 15-year-old middle-school student in Argentina with a passion for electronics and technology.

Neri would rise each morning at 4:30 a.m. to make the 30-mile trek to a Navy base, where he would start work at 6:00 a.m. repairing radar and sonar systems from Argentinian ships.

[RELATED: 2018 HPE Discover Coverage]

At 1:00 p.m., Neri would then walk the two miles off the base for a full day of school, a long day that would end with him returning home at 7:30 p.m.

Neri's middle-school years working on that military base coincided with the 74-day Falklands War between Argentina and the United Kingdom. That conflict led to the sinking of the Argentinian ship Belgrano, resulting in the biggest loss of life from the war with the deaths of 323 Argentinians. "There is always risk," said Neri, recounting those days. "You learn a lot. It makes you better. It makes you stronger."

Those formative years in Argentina -- which also included nine years of studying art on his way to becoming a professor of drawing and painting -- were full of what Neri calls "curiosity," "focus" and "sacrifices" that provided him with a rock-solid foundation for life. It's a foundation that Neri built upon when he left Argentina to find economic opportunity, working for a small IT company in Italy. From there, it was off to Amsterdam where he started working as a contractor in the Europe, Middle East and Africa call center for Hewlett-Packard on May 1, 1995.

At the time, the call center was looking for a top-notch technologist who could speak Italian and Spanish. Neri fit the bill, even if he did fail his English test. The British Jamaican call center manager was not put off in the least by the state of Neri's English skills. "We can teach him English," the call center leader told the team at the time. "We need someone who is strong technically."

Twenty-three years later, Neri is set to take the stage at HPE's Discover conference to lay out for the first time his technology vision as the CEO of the 107th largest company in the world. In no small part due to Neri, that Silicon Valley jewel has been reinvented as a fast-moving hybrid IT-intelligent edge market leader with a compelling workload-based pay-per-use services business.

For Neri -- who has the heart and soul of an engineer determined to drive ever-accelerating innovation -- Discover is a chance to show how HPE is redefining the very nature of how business will be done in the years ahead.

"The edge is the future of Hewlett Packard Enterprise," said Neri, speaking about how HPE technology breakthroughs in artificial intelligence and big data analytics will power more intelligent and autonomous infrastructure in the years ahead. "The digital transformation really starts at the edge. Sixty-plus percent of the data is generated at the edge. Two years from now, we are going to have twice the amount of data we generated in human history. That is a massive opportunity, but the connectivity is required at the edge. Analytics and AI are required at the edge. The compute capacity at the edge in the form of cloud architecture is going to be a significant opportunity for us. That is why I am very bullish about the future of HPE."

That sense of optimism is palpable among HPE employees, customers and partners. They say Neri's Next initiative -- an ambitious plan launched last year to simplify HPE and accelerate innovation in a market moving at lightning speed -- has brought a rising tide of passion, energy and excitement.

That exhilaration stems from Neri's vision to define a new era of edge computing in a software-defined, mobile and cloud-first world. That brave new world will be on full display at HPE Discover from June 18-21, where HPE will showcase its ability to "accelerate what's next for partners and customers" with a slew of technology innovation from the edge to the core to the cloud.

HPE is also unveiling GreenLake Flex Capacity, the first-ever pay-per-use consumption offering "purpose-built" for solution providers. The new GreenLake Flex Capacity economics provide robust financial incentives aimed at powering an advisory-led services channel transformation.

The HPE Pointnext offering delivers a partner rebate that is five times greater than what they would get in a traditional Capex deal. The accelerated rebate program is designed to provide a significant margin boost, easing the cash flow squeeze as partners move to a pay-per-use consumption model.

While competitors are offering models "disintermediating partners," HPE is delivering a breakthrough that puts the channel at the center of the pay-per-use consumption model, said HPE Pointnext Chief Ana Pinczuk. "We have the industry's first and most partner-friendly consumption model," said Pinczuk. "There is no one else that is doing this in the industry. Our goal is to make the GreenLake model more attractive to a partner than the traditional model. The rebate portion of this makes it super-attractive for partners."

Pinczuk said Neri's customer- and partner-first focus, combined with his formidable services background, have been critical in HPE's fast-paced pivot to partner-led services. "That has been absolutely huge in terms of our ability to really construct these new business models and to create a new experience for the channel," she said. "We have been going really fast."