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4/4/2012
09:36 AM
Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy
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HP's Cloud Strategy Takes Aim At Amazon

HP finally clarifies its cloud plans, which include private cloud bundles and public cloud services that will directly compete with Amazon Web Services.

Don't tell anyone this, because I may yet be proved wrong, but I think I understand Hewlett-Packard's cloud computing strategy.

I just listened to Biri Singh, head of HP Cloud Services, at the Wells Fargo Tech Transformation Summit in San Francisco. Singh laid out HP's thinking about cloud data centers, along with a promise to announce soon its public cloud service, which is now in private beta and will hit public beta soon.

Here's what I took from Singh's 25-minute presentation. HP will:

--Sell you servers, storage, switches, and the management software for self provisioning and managing end users in an on-premises, private cloud.

--Sell you that private cloud data center as an outsourced service.

--Rent you time on HP's public cloud, whereby you pay for capacity as you use it, similar to what Amazon Web Services does (though of course it's promising more and better).

HP has long done the first two, and now it's adding a public cloud service. Is it more complicated than that? I know I'm at risk of oversimplifying a cloud strategy that HP has made quite complex in the past. But to me it boils down to CIOs having three data center options--run your own, outsource, or pay as you go--and so put them in a bakeoff and see who has the best features.

The public cloud service is the new offering, so here are a few key points Singh made about it:

--Independent software vendors are a prime target. Think online game providers such as Zynga or online software providers such as Workday--what Singh calls "next-gen SaaS companies." Singh thinks ISVs will certify their software to run on a few cloud vendors' systems, just like vendors have certified software to run on a particular hardware-software stack. In this market, there will be "a handful of clouds. There won't be tens of thousands of clouds," Singh predicted.

--HP will tout its SLAs and security. "The notion of just standing up a VM for raw compute is kind of done," Singh said. Enterprise IT organizations need a more reliable, "business-grade cloud" if they’re going to go beyond development and testing in the public cloud and move in production apps, he said. HP will also offer its public cloud as a private label service that small telecom providers can resell.

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--HP will have to court developers. It doesn't have a great history doing that, and Singh acknowledged "we didn't do ourselves any favors with WebOS last year." But he said HP will win over developers by helping people write apps sooner: "Our belief is developers are all about time to code." HP will provide a set of development tools and rich API (which others do), database-as-a-service, and a marketplace of services developers can tap for common functions like a location service. (Its public cloud is based on OpenStack.)

Will there be enough differentiation in SLAs, security, and a developer marketplace to make HP stand out from Amazon and Microsoft Azure? Do enterprises want to push beyond app dev and put their production apps into a public cloud? Look for more details from HP in the weeks ahead.

The pay-as-you go nature of the cloud makes ROI calculation seem easy. It's not. Also in the new, all-digital Cloud Calculations InformationWeek supplement: Why infrastructure-as-a-service is a bad deal. (Free registration required.)

To find out more about Chris Murphy, please visit his page.

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