HP's OpenStack bet to deliver what Amazon Web Services won't

An enterprise-out strategy is HP's only real cloud option, but it needs more than the beta Converged Cloud offering to succeed

HP today announced its HP Converged Cloud, which when released in beta form in May will use a version of the open source OpenStack software. HP's betting that the OpenStack-fueled offering will get enterprises excited about the cloud in ways that Amazon Web Services (AWS) has not -- and overcome the objections in many IT organizations around using technology from public cloud vendors such as Amazon.com, whose private and hybrid cloud offerings are an afterthought handled by third parties.

HP says its Converged Cloud lets enterprises use cloud computing to deploy an internal architecture to interact with some external cloud service providers that leverage OpenStack. In turn, this could provide a private cloud approach that takes into account IT's fears and a more palatable path to extending into public and hybrid clouds.

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HP is not picking a winner for the use of virtual machine hypervisors and other development platforms. Instead, its private cloud service hosts the major virtual machine offerings: EMC VMware's ESX Server, Microsoft's Hyper-V, and Red Hat's KVM. HP's approach is to not worry about customers' preferred VM technology but to provide an on-premise IaaS that works and plays well with other OpenStack-based cloud providers, whether inside or outside of the enterprise.

HP will also provide cloud maps, which are templates of preconfigured cloud services, so you don't have to build your cloud from scratch. Moreover, HP promises several new features such as service virtualization, which will let cloud developers test systems in protected domains. There are new networking and security services in HP's cloud cocktail as well.

Although HP is clearly looking to beat AWS as the premier enterprise cloud platform, Converged Cloud offers AWS compatibility; you can reach out to AWS services as needed. HP understands that if you don't work with AWS, you won't have much of a chance in this emerging market. No doubt HP hopes that such compatibility will provide a nice offramp from AWS for enterprises that want a private cloud strategy and will be happy to extend beyond -- or even replace -- AWS's focus on public IaaS and PaaS offerings. The fact that AWS leaves private cloud deployments to partners means HP's approach nicely complements AWS for enterprises that don't fear the public cloud.

HP's cloud vision is different than Amazon's. Where Amazon sees the public cloud as the endgame, HP sees cloud deployments moving from private to public to hybrid. HP'ss focus is on cross-compatibility and on development and deployment of software that can leverage public clouds, including the company's own.

From where I sit, this is exactly what HP should do -- in fact, it's HP's only option. If HP tries to battle it out with AWS in the public cloud space, it will quickly be handed its head. That's why it needs to focus on what AWS is not focusing on: the transformation of internal systems to private and hybrid clouds, with the vision of eventually moving to public clouds.

But HP needs to do more than roll out the beta Converged Cloud offering. It must also improve its thought leadership (rather than constantly searching for new CEOs) so that it can lead the conversation. Right now, IBM and Microsoft have more to say about this kind of enterprise-out migration than HP does. Second, HP needs to make its stuff work. Companies like HP have made many hard, complex promises like this one that end up as failures. HP can't afford that now.

This article, "HP's OpenStack bet to deliver what Amazon Web Services won't," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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