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12/8/2011
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HP-Microsoft Hybrid Cloud Eyes Regulated Enterprises

HP-Microsoft alliance lets CIOs use a hybrid approach, including private cloud with security and service levels strong enough for highly-regulated industries. Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync services are part of the offering.

HP and Microsoft announced a four-year alliance on Thursday aimed at delivering private cloud, public cloud, and hybrid cloud Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync services in highly regulated environments.

The public cloud part is the Microsoft Office 365 service, which was launched in June and is run from Microsoft data centers. HP will use its data centers to deliver private cloud HP Enterprise Cloud Services that can meet stringent security, service-level, data-residency, audit, archiving, or application customization requirements faced by many businesses and government agencies.

HP will also offer a hybrid approach blending private Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync services with Microsoft Office 365. For example, a financial services company might want its investment, wealth management, and internal finance organizations in a private environment for regulatory reasons. But the same firm might be fine with salespeople and consultants working on the less-expensive public cloud Office 365 service. Through the alliance and deep integration with Microsoft's services, HP says it can make that combination look and act like a single service.

[ Which is better, Office 365 or Google Apps? Read Office 365 Vs. Google Apps: Top 10 Enterprise Concerns. ]

"With this approach, a CIO can feel comfortable that [he or she is] meeting compliance needs and paying for only what's needed for each end user on a monthly basis," said Patricia Wilkey, HP's global director of marketing, workplace services, HP Enterprise Services, in an interview with InformationWeek.

The joint services are being made available immediately in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Wilkey said the two companies are well along in plans to deliver combined services in 40 countries, including major nations in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.

Where Microsoft has multiple regional data centers around the globe, HP has many more in-country data centers that are accustomed to nation-specific regulations and compliance requirements. Private cloud customers will be able to choose dedicated storage, service levels, auditing and archiving provisions, and application customization options. Yet HP's private cloud services are distinct from existing Microsoft hosting options, according to Microsoft's Mark Hill, vice president, Enterprise Partner Group.

"Those partners host Exchange and SharePoint on fixed contracts, but this is a cloud service that lets customers come and go on a monthly basis with a monthly billing approach," Hill told InformationWeek.

The deal with HP is not exclusive, but Hill said that it's the first of its kind for Microsoft and won't be matched in terms of scale or importance. "HP has data centers in virtually every country in the world. That's appealing to Microsoft, and there's a significant effort from both companies to address needs in multiple countries and regulated environments like government," Hill said.

HP did not disclose the cost of private cloud services. Microsoft has list prices for Office 365, but it has been widely reported that the company is heavily discounting. Microsoft also changed its licensing approach recently, Hill said, giving new and existing customers mobility to move Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync licenses from on-premises deployments to HP's data centers, to the Microsoft Office 365 service, and back to on-premise deployments as they so choose.

"This protects the customers' investment and they don't have to rebuy if and when they decide to move," Hill said.

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