HP's New Cloud on the Block
As a new public cloud provider, HP is competing more directly with IBM, Rackspace, AWS and Microsoft. There will be more overlap with burgeoning Software as a Service providers as they seek to provide more cloud-based infrastructure services. Yet even among that wide field, HP is seeking to differentiate itself with a strong emphasis on hybrid computing.
Recently, HP fully threw its hat into the public cloud-computing ring, joining the likes of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and IBM, to provide a full range of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offerings hosted on HP data centers.
Targeting enterprises, independent software vendors (ISVs), service providers, and the global HP channel and partner ecosystem, the new HP Enterprise Cloud Services-Compute (ECS-Compute) bundles server, storage, network and security resources for consumption as pure services.
ECS-Compute is an HP-hosted compute fabric that's governed via policies for service, performance, security, and privacy requirements. The fabric is available this month via bursting with elasticity provisioning that rapidly adjusts infrastructure capacity, as enterprise demands shift and change, said HP.
HP CloudSystem, a new private-hybrid cloud enablement offering that automates private cloud provisioning, uses HP Cloud Service Automation (CSA) solutions and HP Converged Infrastructure physical assets so that enterprises, governments, and service providers can better build, manage, and consume hybrid cloud services, said HP.
HP CloudSystem supports a broad spectrum of applications while speeding and simplifying the buying, deployment and support of cloud environments, said HP. CloudSystem brings "cloud maps" to play so that more applications can be quick-start "ported" to a cloud or hybrid environment.
Hosting in the Blood
The ECS-Compute and CloudSystem announcements much more fully deepen HP's cloud strategy, building on earlier announcements around CSA and Cloud Assure offerings. HP, however, is coming to the public cloud space from a hosting and multi-tenancy heritage, in large part through its EDS acquisition. That, HP expects, will make its cloud models more appealing to large businesses, governments and applications providers. HP is also emphasizing the security and management capabilities of these offerings.
As a new public cloud provider, HP is competing more directly with IBM, Rackspace, AWS and Microsoft, and very likely over time, with private and hybrid cloud products from EMC/VMware, Oracle, Cisco, Red Hat, TIBCO and Google. There will be more overlap with burgeoning Software as a Service (SaaS) providers like Salesforce.com, as they seek to provide more cloud-based infrastructure services.
Yet even among that wide field, HP is seeking to differentiate itself with a strong emphasis on hybrid computing over assemblages or components of plain-vanilla public cloud services. HP sees a governance path for computing resources and services from a variety of sources and models (including legacy IT) that add up to IT as a Service as its long-term strategic value.
"This is a hybrid services delivery capability, and you can manage it all as a service," said Rebecca Lawson, director of cloud initiatives at HP.
The services are designed to help organizations "grow and manage the applications," regardless of the applications' heritage, production model or technology, said Lawson.
"We're now saying, 'welcome to our data center' ... but we're ecumenical and agnostic on platform and applications," she said.
Also part of the news, HP Hybrid Delivery will help businesses and governments build, manage and consume services using a combination of traditional, outsourced and cloud services best suited to them. It consists of HP Hybrid Delivery Strategy Service, to provide a structured understanding of the programs, projects and main activities required to move to a hybrid delivery model; and HP Hybrid Delivery Workload Analysis Service, to analyze enterprise workloads to determine the best fits for hybrid environments.
HP sees these as enabling a "journey" to cloud and hybrid computing, with a strong emphasis on the professional services component of learning how to efficiently leverage cloud models.
HP's vision for the cloud -- part of its solution set for the demands of the "Instant-On Enterprise" -- clearly emphasizes openness and neutrality when it comes to operating systems, platforms, middleware, virtual machines, cloud stacks, SaaS providers and applications, said Lawson. HP will support all major workloads and platforms from its new cloud hosting services and help to govern and manage across them via HP's hybrid computing and private cloud capabilities as well, said Lawson.
The achievement of the instant-on enterprise, said Sandeep Johri, vice president of strategy and industry solutions at HP, comes from an increasing ability to automate, orchestrate, secure and broker services -- regardless of their origins: traditional IT or public or private clouds.
In other words, hybrid computing (perhaps even more than cloud itself) will become a key enabling core competency for enterprises for the foreseeable future. HP is banking on that, expecting that the platform and lock-in wars will push customers to an alternative lower-risk partner that emphasizes inclusion and open standards over singular cloud stacks.
HP therefore has a rare opportunity to appeal to many organizations and governments that fear cloud lock-in, as well as the costs and complexity of following a SaaS or software platform vendor's isolated path to cloud, which may come from a heritage of on-premises platform or proprietary stack lock-in, rather than from a support of heterogeneity and of a heritage of a myriad of hosted services.
Whereas some vendors such as VMware, Oracle, Microsoft, Cisco, Red Hat and Citrix are cobbling together so-called integrated cloud stacks -- and then building a set of hosting services that will most likely favor their stacks and installed bases -- HP is working to focus at the higher abstraction of management and governance across many stacks and models. Hence the emphasis on hybrid capabilities. And, where some SaaS and business applications vendors are working to bring cloud infrastructure services and/or SaaS delivery to their applications, HP is working to help its users provide an open cloud home and/or hybrid support for all their applications, inclusive of those hosted anywhere.
HP's cloud strategy, then, closely follows (for now) its on-premises data center infrastructure strategy, with many options on software and stack, and an emphasis on overall and holistic management and cost-efficiency.
Less Complex Path
Some analysts I've heard recently say that HP is coming late to public cloud. But coming from a hosting and single- and multi-tenancy applications support services heritage may very well mean that HP already has a lot of cloud and hosted services DNA, and that the transition from global hosting for Fortune 500 enterprises to a full cloud offerings is a less tortured and complex path than those from other vendors, such as traditional on-premises OS, platform, middleware, and infrastructure license providers, as well as SaaS-to-cloud providers.
HP may be able to effectively position itself as more IT transformation-capable and mission-critical support-ready -- and stack-neutral and applications-inclusive -- to provide a spectrum of hybrid cloud services at global scale with enterprise-calibre response, security and reliability. And because HP does not have a proprietary middleware stack of its own to protect, it can support the requirements of more of its customers across more global regions.
Enterprise mature from the get-go, not late to the cloud-hype party, might be a better way to describe HP's timing on cloud sourcing and support services. The value HP seems to be eying comes from agility and total costs reduction for IT -- not on a technology, license or skills lock-in basis.
By allowing a large spectrum of applications support -- and the ability to pick and choose (and change) the sourcing for the applications over time -- the risk of lock-in, and for unwillingly paying high IT prices, goes down. Hybrid, says HP, offers the best long-term IT value and overall cost-efficiencies. Hybrid, says HP, can save 30-40 percent of the cost of traditional IT, though not offering too many specifics on how long such savings would take.
"You can now run mission-critical applications with the economics of cloud," said Patrick Harr, vice president of cloud strategy and solutions at HP. "It's a hybrid world."
HP is also thinking hybrid when it comes to go-to-market strategies. It expects to appeal to ISVs, resellers, and system integrators/outsourcers with the newest cloud offerings. By being hybrid-focused and open and agnostic to underlying platforms, more channel partners will look to HP with less strategic angst and the potential for later direct competition as they might with an Oracle or Microsoft.
And HP is putting a lot of consulting and professional services around the hybrid push, including HP Cloud Discovery Workshops, that help enterprises develop a holistic cloud strategy, with a focus on cloud economics, applications and cloud security.
HP ECS-Compute will be available in the U.S. and EMEA countries in February, and in Asia-Pacific countries in June.
"To create an Instant-On Enterprise, organizations need to close the gap between what customers and citizens expect and what the enterprise can deliver," said Ann Livermore, executive vice president, HP Enterprise Business. "With HP's cloud solutions, clients can determine the right service delivery models to deliver the right results, in the right time frame, at the right price."
These new offerings will not be a last chapter in HP's cloud and IT transformation drive. Looking back to last month's ALM 11 announcements, and HP's long heritage of SaaS test and dev services, one can easily envision a more end-to-end applications lifecycle and hybrid cloud operations capabilities set. Think of it as a coordinated, hybrid services approach to applications definition, build, test, deploy and brokering -- all as an open managed lifecycle.
That means joining PasS and hybrid computing on an automated and managed continuum, for ISVs, service providers, governments and enterprises. I can easily see where a choice of tool/framework and openness too in terms of workload and operations environments joined to a coordinated, managed services and hybrid hosting spectrum would be very appealing.
Such a flexible cloud support horizon -- from cradle to grave of applications and data -- could really impact the total cost of IT downward, while reducing complexity, and allowing businesses to focus on their core processes, innovation and customer value, rather than on an ongoing litany of never-ceasing IT headaches.
Dana Gardner is president and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, which tracks trends, delivers forecasts and interprets the competitive landscape of enterprise applications and software infrastructure markets for clients. He also produces BriefingsDirect sponsored podcasts. Follow Dana Gardner on Twitter. Disclosure: HP is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.