HPE’s CMS unit reemerges as a software-centric contender in the new network architecture

TBR perspective  

TBR believes HPE’s CMS unit has the potential to become a significant disruptor in the telecom space. CMS, which had been marginalized in prior years while Hewlett Packard Co. split into HP Inc. and HPE and as HPE executed divestitures, restructurings and developed a new strategy, has received new life after obtaining corporate sponsorship from HPE’s relatively new CEO, Antonio Neri, and CFO, Tarek Robbiati, who was formerly the CFO at Sprint (NYSE: S). CMS leadership reports directly to Robbiati. With the C-Suite and board of directors providing corporate support, the telecom vertical will become a key growth pillar for HPE going forward, given the technology transformation and business model transformation that is being prompted by 5G, edge computing, AI and automation. 

The CMS unit represents only a small percentage of HPE’s total revenue, but the unit is a key gateway into emerging opportunities that are impacting the telecom vertical. CMS is reestablishing itself in the market as a growth engine for HPE corporate and is receiving the funding and support required to drive its portfolio, particularly in the management and orchestration (MANO), 5G core, and digital identity spaces. TBR believes CMS is positioned to be a key vendor in the new network architecture, which will be microservices-based, cloud-native and distributed.

CMS faces some notable hurdles, including the negative perception of its capabilities that followed the bad press it received as a supplier and the prime systems integrator for Telefonica’s (NYSE: TEF) software-defined transformation initiative back in 2015. The company was eventually replaced by several other suppliers. TBR believes the lingering effects of this situation have hindered CMS’ growth over the past few years, but notes that CMS has put the incident in its rearview mirror and is making significant headway moving forward.

CMS’ mindshare and credibility are moving in a positive direction, and the unit is gaining significant traction in CSP accounts, particularly for its Service Orchestrator and NFV Director MANO offerings. CMS has an impressive roster of CSP customers and has played a behind-the-scenes role in several significant network transformation projects, including SK Telecom (NYSE: SKM) and Vodafone (Nasdaq: VOD). These reference wins will be critical to positioning HPE as a contender in new RFPs, particularly in disruptive areas such as MANO and 5G core.

CMS is challenged by OSS domain incumbents like Amdocs (Nasdaq: DOX) and Ericsson (Nasdaq: ERIC), which CSPs will be reluctant to move on from due to possible migration and integration issues. This hesitancy could also prohibit the majority of CSPs from altering their procurement models to adopt more modular solutions, as webscales have done. CMS’ portfolio is increasingly aligned to this trend. The most difficult challenge may be delivering on helping CSPs become more than the connectivity provider or “dumb pipe” in a 5G world. Vendors will be jockeying to deliver this dream, but HPE may be better served focusing on providing the solutions that will enable CSPs to run the most efficient, cost-effective networks possible.

HPE (NYSE: HPE) hosted its first ever North America Communications and Media Solutions (CMS) Analyst Summit in Boston, bringing along top leadership from the company’s CMS business, who delved into CMS’ strategy and portfolio as well as key customer wins and success stories. Following executive presentations, which were interactive in nature, with industry analysts able to pose questions to presenters, analysts received one-on-one time with CMS VP and General Manager Phil Mottram, CMS Chief Technology Officer Jeff Edlund, CMS VP of R&D and Delivery Mark Colaluca, and CMS VP of Product Strategy and Lifecycle Management Domenico Convertino.

With CMS recently emerging from the shadows of HPE’s Pointnext business and retooling its portfolio to align with demand from communications service providers (CSPs), executives were upbeat about CMS’ ability to take market share and compete with highly entrenched incumbent vendors and startups alike.

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