HP’s Public Cloud Services Relying on OpenStack to Tackle Rivals

Hewlett-Packard’s public cloud services are starting to become available as a public beta.

HP Cloud Compute, HP Cloud Object Storage and HP Cloud Content Delivery Network are the first services available in beta, all of them offered on a pay-as-you-go basis.

HP’s big cloud drive has been in the making for some time. In April, the company announced that its Converged Cloud would unite products such as HP Converged Infrastructure, HP Converged Management and Security, Converged Information and hardened OpenStack technology. The stack also offers new ways to deploy and manage cloud infrastructure, including HP Public Infrastructure as a Service.

During that April announcement, Bill Veghte, chief strategy officer and executive vice president for HP Software, suggested that the Converged Cloud would enable businesses to “create a seamless hybrid environment” of public, private and managed cloud services.

In announcing its first public cloud services reaching beta, HP emphasized their use to executives and developers looking to build apps and services. “Whether you are an independent developer, ISV or the CIO of a major organization, the priority is to design your applications for today’s cloud economy,” Zorawar ‘Biri’ Singh, senior vice president and general manager of HP’s Cloud Services, wrote in a May 10 statement. “We will continue to build, integrate and deploy developer-focused features, designed to support a world-class cloud.”

Buried within HP’s rather formulaic announcement is one large detail that could send executives at Amazon, Microsoft, and other major cloud vendors scrambling for their whiteboards to trace out a competitive response: HP Cloud Services are designed with open-source OpenStack technology, the foundation of open and interoperable cloud infrastructure and services.

Rackspace Hosting and NASA originally founded OpenStack, and a number of IT vendors, including Dell, have relied on it for their own cloud endeavors. In theory, the open nature of OpenStack technology gives HP the ability to construct private clouds for companies that can interoperate with public clouds and pretty much any platform also built using OpenStack. Combine that with HP’s obvious designs on both the private and public cloud markets, and the potential result is a flexible, scalable platform capable of competing with similar offerings from Amazon and others.

But as with so many things in life, the success of HP’s cloud initiative will boil down to steady and efficient execution—and HP’s had a turbulent ride over the past year or so. In August 2011, HP purchased enterprise IT provider Autonomy for more than $10 billion, a move designed to make the company more of a player in business intelligence and analytics. At the same time, then-CEO Leo Apotheker announced plans to potentially sell off HP’s PC manufacturing arm.

Apotheker was ousted the following month, replaced by former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, who has been fighting to reassure employees and investors that HP will right itself. Given all that boardroom turbulence, HP will almost certainly find itself the target of extra scrutiny whenever it makes a broad strategic move such as the current one into cloud.

HP isn’t the first large company to announce a broad-based cloud endeavor. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, for example, has spent the past few years touting an “all in” cloud strategy, one that includes products as diverse as Azure and Office 365. But if HP manages to earn a significant presence among clients looking to upgrade to the cloud, it could become one of the major ones.

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