Hewlett-Packard was in the news recently, talking about how cloud computing is in the mainstream as it announced enterprise-level services of the sort we associate with Amazon.com's Elastic Compute Cloud. But details were sketchy, particularly around penalties for missing HP's stated 99.9% uptime guarantee. That's no little detail to leave out--an apology and a chump-change refund for the time the service was unavailable are exactly the sort of cloud guarantees CIOs have no interest in.
The details HP did provide only further confuse the issue. Company officials said pricing of its new cloud infrastructure offering will be based on cycles used, but recovery time objectives will be based on whether you decide to run apps on HP's virtual servers--the RTO would be one hour for virtual servers and seven hours for physical servers.
Make up your mind, HP--am I buying CPU time, a virtual server service, or a physical server rental? Part of the reason for running in the cloud is to avoid being saddled with the notion that "the server you rented went belly up; see you in seven hours when we manage to replace it." We call that outsourcing, and it's not news.
As you'd expect, HP execs gushed about the goodness of cloud computing and how their new service is just what the enterprise is clamoring for. No more of the sophomoric attempts from the likes of Amazon; HP gets the enterprise, they said. Those comments sent me back to our annual cloud computing survey, completed in mid-January. Is HP right? Is the market demanding infrastructure as a service?
The short answer is no. We asked about use of virtualization technology, as well as software, platform, and infrastructure as a service. As was the case in our 2009 survey, IaaS ranked the least popular of the four cloud services. In fact, compared with our 2009 results, 18% fewer respondents said they're actually using those services. SaaS use is up 10% and virtualization use--call it private cloud technology--is up 18%.
Maybe HP CEO Léo Apotheker and Ann Livermore, his right-hand woman for all things enterprise, have it right: Amazon is a bridge too far for enterprise types and a service from HP will be more palatable. But as far as we can tell, most enterprises are more interested in building private clouds to support strategic applications and using SaaS to meet tactical needs. Smaller businesses are more open to SaaS for strategic needs, but external infrastructure services are still a question mark. HP isn't helping matters by not showing real teeth for its service-level agreements.
Just as important is the unmistakable trend toward highly virtualized environments within data centers. VMware and Microsoft will form the foundation for most virtualized environments, so if and when enterprises decide they need an external infrastructure service, they'll be looking for compatibility with those two. HP gave lip service to hybrid clouds, but no one from VMware or Microsoft participated in its announcement. Omissions like those will leave the IaaS version of cloud computing in the realm of tire-kicking and nonstrategic use for the foreseeable future.
Art Wittmann is director of InformationWeek Analytics, a portfolio of decision-support tools and analyst reports. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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