Operational technology [OT] giant ABB and Hewlett Packard Enterprise [HPE] have announced an expansion of their strategic collaboration. It will see ABB and Aruba, an HPE company, collaborate to deliver a scalable, high-performance wireless connectivity solution for large industrial customers. The announcement was made at HPE Discover in Las Vegas.
ABB a global corporation with 140,000 employees which is based in Switzerland and in Sweden. Their sales – in the $35 billion range, — are split in approximately equal measure between North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific.
“Our core market is very large customers,” said Eva Schoenleitner, ABB’s Vice President Digital Partnerships. “They are enterprise-class customers mainly but we do have some that are midmarket sized. We sell a lot direct, but about a third of it goes through channel partners.”
ABB has consisted of five business units, one of which, their power grid business, is being sold to Hitachi and will become a Hitachi majority-owned joint venture, The other four businesses are: discrete manufacturing, which has a heavy robotics component; process manufacturing; the motion business, which makes motors and drives; and electrification, which includes Smart Cities projects.
The HPE strategic relationship has been in place since 2016.
“We had worked with them for years, but as a vendor relationship,” Schoenleitner said. “We bought their servers. It wasn’t a partnership. This new relationship is a part of our digitalization strategy, ABB Ability, which started in 2016. HPE was one of several key relationships in this strategy, with others being Microsoft, IBM around their Watson AI, and Dassault.”
“We launched our first joint solution with HPE in April 2018,” said André Schärer, ABB’s Global Digital Alliance Manager for Hewlett Packard Enterprise. The product of a three-way partnership with German operational technology provider Rittal, it allowed industrial and telecommunications companies to run enterprise-grade IT in close proximity to their OT environments for lower latency.
“In this partnership, HPE provided the hardware and is the system integrator,” Schärer said.
The expanded partnership with Aruba creates a highly scalable wireless solution designed to bridge gaps between OT and IT by integrating the ABB Ability Smart Sensor technology with Aruba networking equipment to monitor the condition and performance of equipment in large environments. The solution can be accessed through a Web portal, a cloud interface or a mobile phone application. HPE has been enhancing Aruba’s core enterprise-grade functionality with Internet of Things capabilities, and building out a portfolio there.
“We have had a relationship in the past for this networking capability, but in large environments like automotive plants with thousands of sensors, you need a truly scalable solution,” Schärer stated. “The relationship that we have had is not scalable in this way.”
Accordingly, it was ABB that proposed extending the HPE partnership around Aruba.
“We made this proposal to HPE because we saw it as a best-of-breed approach,” Schoenleitner said.
“The solution will provide a combination of monitoring and preventative maintenance relating to powertrain assets,” Schärer said. “We would like to co-ordinate monitoring across the powertrain, not in an isolated manner for single assets.”
At Discover, HPE announced significant upgrades to their Aruba Central cloud-based management capabilities, and also announced the availability of Aruba through HPE’s GreenLake consumption-based services offering.
“The consumption-based capability is a key reason why we chose this,” Schärer indicated. “It opens up opportunities for new use cases around network infrastructure-as-a-service. Instead of customers having to buy the equipment, they will now have option of getting it as a service, and this also makes possible the potential of new use cases like asset tracking. It lets us go beyond what we were doing and add significantly more value.”
Exactly how the joint solution will go to market has not yet been finalized.
“We haven’t fully decided on the joint go-to-market,” Schärer said. “We are both clear that it can go in either direction. We can go to existing ABB customers who have motors deployed and talk about bringing Aruba in, or we can go to existing Aruba customers and try and sell it. We will go to the market jointly.”
On the ABB side, these are likely to be direct sales, while on the HPE, they could be channel, depending on the customer relationship.
The joint solution is scheduled to be available in late 2019
In addition to the new joint partnership around Aruba, HPE and ABB also announced a new four-way partnership with Rittal and Microsoft. It provides an enterprise-grade edge appliance for industrial appliances, that also has seamless integration with Microsoft Azure. It provides IP55-rated environmental protection, cooling, redundant power supply and distribution, and automated management.