HP heats up cloud wars by backing OpenStack

Control over both private and public clouds is at stake as HP becomes the second big hardware vendor to support the OpenStack platform

In a blog post on the HP site yesterday, vice president of cloud services Emil Sayegh announced HP's "intent to join and support" the open source OpenStack cloud infrastructure project. It's a major milestone in big vendor efforts to carve up territory on the new public/private cloud frontier.

Although an HP spokesperson told InfoWorld the company was not ready to announce specific plans for HP products or services, Sayegh's words speak for themselves: "We see this as an opportunity to enable customers, partners, and developers with unique infrastructure and development solutions across public, private, and hybrid cloud environments." This almost surely indicates that HP will offer hardware preloaded with OpenStack software -- as Dell announced Tuesday -- and perhaps a public cloud service based on the OpenStack platform.

The timing of the post suggests that HP saw the need to counter Dell's OpenStack announcement. OpenStack's profile has risen dramatically in the past few months as its bundle of management software for cloud compute and storage services -- offered under an Apache 2.0 license -- continues to gain industry traction. Enterprise customers and public cloud service providers alike can use OpenStack to run Amazon-like clouds with support for the major hypervisors, including Xen, vSphere, Hyper-V, and KVM. The main competitor to OpenStack is Eucalyptus, an open source implementation of Amazon Web Services, but it has nowhere near the industry momentum now enjoyed by OpenStack, which boasts Cisco, Citrix, Dell, Intel, and 80 or so other supporters, plus HP.

The idea of crossing the chasm between public and private cloud is critical to OpenStack's value proposition, not to mention its appeal to vendors. OpenStack, which is basically an open source version of Rackspace's IaaS (infrastructure as a service) platform, is attempting to foster a critical mass of public cloud service providers to establish a de facto IaaS standard -- one that extends to enterprise customer data centers as well. Theoretically, those customers would be able to use the same OpenStack tools to manage their private clouds and burst to an OpenStack public cloud as needed in a seamless hybrid cloud scenario.

The nearly concurrent HP and Dell announcements highlight a behind-the-scenes struggle to grab a share of the emerging private/public cloud market. VMware is working with telcos around the world to provide VMware-based IaaS to customers, with the Terremark acquisition by Verizon leading the way. With its CloudStart program, IBM offers blade servers with preconfigured private cloud software -- and the ability to burst to its public cloud. And Eucalyptus will probably remain an important private/public cloud player, thanks to Amazon's leading position as a public cloud provider.

Neither HP nor Dell has yet offered much in the way of specifics about their public cloud IaaS plans. Place your bets now on which one announces its public OpenStack IaaS service first -- or, perhaps, makes a bid for Rackspace. In either case, offering the insurance of IaaS burst capability seems like smart added value for blade servers fully loaded for the private cloud.

This story, "HP heats up cloud wars by backing OpenStack," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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