HP Offers 'Test The Cloud' Packages

Hewlett Packard provides low-priced testbed and client engineer to help newcomers launch cloud workloads.
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HP is using a new way to entice more customers onto the HP cloud: it offers a helping hand at the outset and lets them stay experimenting with their workloads for up to 16 weeks. But this isn't another "five GB of storage free" kind of offer.

HP will assign a customer service engineer to help a cloud newcomer set up an initial workload. HP can provide a newcomer with established services, including Web servers and a database service, but it will work with whatever the customer brings, including his own database system.

Its "compartment" test bed is a virtualized slice of HP's virtual private cloud at a data center at an unspecified location in Oklahoma. The customer's workload runs in a virtual machine on a server shared with other customers. That is, it's a multi-tenant environment, which some customers fear might compromise the isolation and integrity of their data.

HP's proof of concept compartments are set up to counter those fears. A customer enjoys access to his workload over a restricted VLAN,; he uses two-factor authentication and an encrypted password to get a workload admin logged in. Each customer is assigned a virtual network segment that only his or her company can access. In other words, if the customer is worried about security, HP can describe a secured, online environment as a starter environment.

"The client service engineer (assigned to each proof-of-concept customer) acts as a subject-matter expert with that customer," said Patricia Wilkey, global director, cloud services, a unit of HP Enterprise Services. If the customer wants to run a website in the cloud, he'll get a service representative knowledgeable in that area. Once set up and running, the service engineer steps into the background and customer gets his own experience running the workload. But if any questions arise, the same service engineer is called on to answer them, "a personal voice to work with," she explained.

[ Verizon's Terremark unit is another cloud service provider trying to address enterprise needs and fears. To see how Terremark does it, see Terremark VP Defines Attributes Of Enteprise Cloud Suppliers. ]

HP's cloud proof of concept service starts out with a $2,000 to $3,000 initiation fee the first week, with $1,000 to $2,000 weekly charges afterward. The proof of concept service is sold in four-week increments and can run for up to 16 weeks.

Both the fees and limited number of compartments that HP makes available in its cloud data center indicate that it hopes to make the service available to those customers it believes are likely to convert to longer term infrastructure as a service contracts.

HP limits the number of customers who can tap into its cloud data center in Oklahoma at the proof of concept rate to six. It's a sign of how committed it is to finding and converting the right prospects into regular customers of its cloud services.

It hopes the service will convince customers to convert to longer term infrastructure-as-a-service contracts. HP is looking to expand its services business at a time when PC sales and other revenue are declining. On Aug. 22, the company reported a $4.49 per share loss in its third quarter. Earlier that month, the Enterprise Services division replaced its senior executive, John Visentin, VP of enterprise services, with Mike Nefkens, former HP Enterprise Services senior VP for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, and a veteran of Electronic Data Services consulting services, which is now part of HP. Visentin is leaving HP to pursue other interests, the Aug. 8 announcement said.

An HP proof of concept "compartment" come in two sizes:

-- a "small" compartment is a virtual machine environment capable of running six VMs with four GBs of RAM per VM. Each VM runs on two CPU cores.

-- a "medium" compartment includes the six VMs described above, along with resources for four more VMs using eight GBs of RAM each, with each VM running on two cores.

While customer service engineers will help a customer get set up, the HP public cloud and virtual private cloud services in the long run require the customer to access resources through a self-service portal, and one purpose of the proof of concept approach is to make sure customers get acquainted with how to use it.

Wilkey said HP has been offering the newcomer service since the end of August. It is geared to work with VMware ESX Server-based virtual macfhines and Wilkey noted that so far, that is the only type of workload that customers have ventured to bring to the cloud workload incubation process.

HP is finding customers often have quite different needs, once they're functioning in the cloud. "Some find they have high security or high compliance needs," she noted. They may decide they don't belong in the cloud at all and revert to constructing private cloud capabilities on premises. Or they may find the environment more secure than anticipated in the cloud and move into HP's virtual private cloud or even its multi-tenant public infrastructure as a service.

HP's virtual private cloud includes the choice of shared or dedicated physical servers. A customer who has come to the cloud via VLAN is assigned a virtual private network that becomes the only way to access the customer's applications. What HP calls "logical unit security" isolates a customer's data in storage from other customers.' Vulnerability scanning and intrusion detection are in place at all times, Wilkey added.

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