HP Plans Free Propel Cloud Services

HP borrows the freemium concept to launch three products for IT service automation, often a first step in movement toward private cloud.
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Like CA Technologies, HP has decided a free version of new IT transformation software may beat a big investment in marketing. On Tuesday it announced it will offer a freemium version of its new HP Propel, a combination of three software-as-a-service products, starting in January.

Propel consists of an IT self-service portal, a service catalogue, and Open Service Exchange, which connects the new services to backend provisioning systems. The goal of the combination is faster employee self-service and lower administration costs.

But the freemium system has its limitations. It prompts Open Service Exchange to send email to a cloud provisioning system, whichever one you're using. Its portal includes 100 common IT services, such as getting a new employee onboard or ordering an office laptop. If what you need isn't already there, you may have to leave the freemium for the premium version.

For example, HP will publish the APIs for Open Service Exchange to allow third parties to connect their products to an IT automation central hub. It comes with connectors to BMC's Remedy system management and ServiceNow SaaS IT management applications. Connections to CA Technologies' Unicenter, Microsoft's System Center, and IBM's Tivoli are expected in 2014 as well. Connections to Unicenter are expected by midyear, said Ajay Singh, senior VP and general manager of HP operations management business unit. The unit is part of the HP Software division.

[Want to learn more about why HP leads in private cloud creation? See HP, Cisco, Microsoft Ranked Top Private Cloud Vendors.]

The premium version (prices have not yet been disclosed) connects more richly to existing HP products, such as Cloud Services Automation, which would allow a set of compute, storage, and networking resources to be managed in an automated fashion. It includes chargebacks and employee self-provisioning. While the freemium version relies on email notifications to other systems, the premium version would tap Cloud Services Automation and rely on direct integration with provisioning systems.

The premium version would be an enabler of a private cloud operation, tied together through HP cloud data centers. That might seem like a more complex patchwork arrangement than necessary, given on-premises systems that also offer private cloud, such as Eucalyptus Systems or various OpenStack vendors, such as Piston or Nebula. But a recent Forrester study found that HP was leading in the creation of private clouds, in part because existing users of the HP systems management and network management wished to keep using their existing HP infrastructure. HP Propel is an IT automation platform that gets non-cloud customers headed in the direction of greater datacenter automation, while giving existing private cloud builders more automation options.

The Propel service catalogue in the premium version, for example, can serve as a catalogue aggregator, pulling together services from around the enterprise. HP's announcement quoted Edgar Aschenbrenner, CIO of E.ON SE, of Dusseldorf, Germany, supplier of electricity and gas, as saying he had consolidated 10,000 service items across the 72,000-employee company into a 1,000 item catalogue. Employees could more easily find the IT service they needed in the central directory, and calls for help from the service desk were cut by 15% as a result.

Singh said Propel will be generally available in North America and Europe in January and in Japan and Asia by March. Pricing will be announced as it becomes generally available. On-premises versions of HP Propel will also become available at a later date.

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