For several months, Hewlett-Packard has emphasized the cloud as a key element in its strategy for a turnaround.
“If we can make each of these business units function beautifully on their own right and then link it together in offerings like [converged] cloud, security, and our, you know, server storage and network business in unique ways,” CEO Meg Whitman told CNBC in an October 2012 interview, “I think we [can] bring something very needed to the marketplace.”
The next stage in that process is here: HP has announced HP Cloud OS, a technology platform for hybridized clouds. HP Cloud OS is based on OpenStack, an open-source Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) platform developed by Rackspace as part of a joint effort with NASA. OpenStack has gained favor among companies seeking to expand their cloud portfolios: in March, for example, IBM announced that OpenStack would undergird its cloud architecture.
By using open-source software to build cloud platforms capable of interoperating with one another, all those companies can create a unified front against Amazon, considered the 800-pound gorilla of the IaaS space. HP Cloud Services (the company’s public cloud) and HP CloudSystem (its private cloud) already rely on HP Cloud OS technology.
HP is also leveraging its hardware manufacturing in conjunction with HP Cloud OS, with plans to include the IaaS platform along with its Moonshot servers (which the company boasts are capable of handling large-scale cloud workloads).
In theory, HP is offering an ultra-flexible solution to many a corporate cloud problem: OpenStack gives IT administrators and CIOs a choice of databases and application-development environments, while HP’s “wrapper” software and services could simplify the deployment and management of even the most intricate hybridized cloud environments—for example, a company could push a workload from its private cloud to a public one, and vice-versa.
Some of those software and services include HP Enterprise Cloud Services—Private Cloud, with a variety of IaaS tools, and HP Enterprise Cloud Services for Enterprise Applications, which focuses on security and business continuity. There’s custom image uploading and virtual private cloud network functionality, among other features.
But as with any wide-ranging cloud platform from any IT giant, there’s also the specter of vendor lock-in, particularly if hardware is involved. Any company buying into such a system for the long term better hope that HP can pull off its turnaround.
A June 13 research note from Saugatuck Technology suggested that HP would indeed face challenges with its corporate-cloud efforts: “Saugatuck’s concern is that, while HP is one of the largest and most influential IT hardware providers today, and it has a significant presence and influence in enterprise software and services, the company has not been able to build, grow, and control the type and scale of developer, ISV, channel, and customer ecosystem needed to make a new OS the first, or most frequent, choice of that ecosystem.”
The note added: “In the ultra-competitive Cloud server marketplace, where cost is king (and therefore, where cost-effective hardware/software/services management is crucial) another OS is unlikely to be enthusiastically and widely welcomed and accommodated by that ecosystem.” HP will need to deliver “exceptional ecosystem influence and scale” in order to compete in an effective way against its tech rivals.