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HP Goes All In On The Cloud

CEO Leo Apotheker details the company's plans to offer data synching, security, and other services that work from the end user device to the data center.

Apotheker Takes The Stage, Paints An HP Cloud Vision
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Slideshow: Apotheker Takes The Stage, Paints An HP Cloud Vision

HP is entering cloud computing from the base of its existing HP data centers around the world and will invest in its software division until it is competitive in all aspects of cloud computing, CEO Leo Apotheker said Monday.

It was an audacious turnaround from the somewhat piecemeal and halting steps that HP has taken towards the cloud in the past. Whether HP can live up to its goal, and when it will deliver key elements, are questions that can't be immediately answered.

Under questioning, Apotheker said HP will become an infrastructure-as-a-service provider -- that is, a supplier of raw compute cycles available over the Internet with storage services -- immediately. It will become a platform-as-a-service provider, where the supplier provides wizards, tools, components, and other assistance to help its customers build applications and services for its cloud, by the end of 2012.

In late January, HP said it was ready to offer infrastructure as a service from its data centers in Tulsa, Okla., and Wynyard, England.

"As for the scalability required to be a cloud provider, we've already investing a lot. We already have data centers available today" being used by HP customers, including some known providers of cloud services. "From a big investment point of view, quite a bit of it is already on the books," said Apotheker in a press conference in San Francisco Monday, when challenged on HP's Johnny-come-lately to the cloud status.

Cloud operations are large-scale build-outs of x86 server architectures. "HP is the world's largest provider of PCs of any type. The same is true for printers -- of any type. From that point of view, we have a possibility of scale unmatched in the industry," Apotheker added. HP shipped 64 million desktops, laptops, and netbooks in 2010.

At the same time he signaled that HP's WebOS operating system for mobile devices will be loaded onto all the PCs and printers that it ships in the future. The operating system can run on top of Windows, supplying mobile services.

The volume of laptops and PCs that it ships will give HP a potential WebOS user base of millions of devices within a short time. PCs that synch easily with smartphones might prove an attractive combination, particularly to business users. And an installed base of millions of devices will potentially attract developers to supply applications -- although many developers are already busy providing applications for the Apple iPad-iPhone-iPod suite or Android phones. HP announced two WebOS smartphones and the TouchPad tablet computer running WebOS on Feb. 9. The phones and TouchPad will become available by June. More WebOS devices will follow, promised Apotheker.

More than other suppliers, HP will also concentrate on secure computing "from the end user device to the data center." Not many people realize it, but HP is the "fifth largest IT security company in the world," Apotheker said.

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