Friday, December 20, 2013

HP Cloud Announcements Target Enterprise Reality

By Bill Moran

HP has finally gotten really serious about its cloud offerings, which is a very good move for them and the industry.  After all, they have been a major industry force for decades. Not all of their initiatives have worked out and the company has certainly seen turmoil in its management. However, things seem to have settled down, thus allowing HP to more closely focus attention on offerings for the next several years including, most definitely, cloud.

HP’s basic Cloud strategy is unchanged, i.e. to be the leader in the hybrid cloud space for enterprises. They assume customers operate in highly heterogeneous environments, and need solutions that reduce operational and management complexity. Their plan is to deliver full support for hybrid clouds with hardware, software, management tools and a full suite of consulting services. HP will create an enterprise-class public cloud as part of its hybrid cloud strategy – on a single platform (Cloud OS / OpenStack) and able to be managed from a single pane of glass.

HP recognizes that multiple companies are offering cloud services and their plans must reflect situational reality. Most enterprises operate a mix of traditional IT, internally built clouds and external clouds from different vendors. Some clouds will have been installed by user departments without involving central IT. Most IT staffs struggle at managing the mix. HP plans are specifically targeted and designed to cope with this “mess” or “hybrid hell” as HP puts it. We believe customers will welcome with open arms a vendor that successfully delivers on that promise.

HP’s own Cloud offering is built on OpenStack, of which are an original member and major contributor (with IBM, Rackspace, Red Hat, Dell and many others). Oracle has recently joined.

Another view of this situation sees the rest of the industry joining forces against Amazon. Over time it will be an interesting test of an Open Source platform against a proprietary solution. Customers will benefit from this competition.

Starting from an OpenStack base, HP will test and add to create an enterprise-ready product; tested to assure strong performance on their hardware. Although not significantly different from what others are doing, it leverages HP’s experiences and understanding of enterprise customers’ needs.  Many companies offering public clouds today have little or no real experience in selling to or satisfying the enterprise market. HP does.

The IT industry is subject to periodic enthusiastic waves of interest in new technologies. But, there should be no doubt that no single technology can satisfy all requirements. Not all workloads will run in and benefit from the cloud.  HP has identified six workloads that they believe will benefit and where they will focus their efforts: 
  1. Development and test
  2. Cloud Apps delivery and hosting
  3. Analytics
  4. Business continuity and compliance
  5. Technical computing
  6.  IT infrastructure

 HP uses these workloads to further classify the type of customer jobs they address. Their added-value comes from helping customers develop the right strategies to apply cloud technology to solve workload issues.

Let’s now turn to the five just announced products and services. See Table 1.
New Cloud Offerings
             Offering                                                  Comment
Hybrid Cloud Professional Services
Key component of HP’s Strategy
New HP Cloud
Built on OpenStack
Virtual Private Cloud
Gives choice of physical and virtual configurations, network, etc.
Management Platform for Hybrid Cloud
Needed to control heterogeneous Clouds
HP Flexible Capacity
Not really a Cloud offering but fits in well.
Table 1

The last two offerings merit a few words. HP’s Cloud management platform includes HP Cloud Service Automation version 4 for automated management of both public and private cloud environments. A key attraction of HP offerings is their ability to co-exist and work with third-party tools in heterogeneous public clouds e.g. mixing HP, Amazon and Microsoft clouds.

Support for hybrid clouds means a customer can manage multiple vendors’ SLAs.  If this lives up to HP’s promises, it will be a clear winner and very attractive to customers. It is a major step toward reducing the complexity of multiple cloud offerings.

HP’s Flexible Capacity Services allows a customer to install HP equipment in their datacenter while HP retains title to the equipment. The customer pays only for the usage not ownership. This may become an attractive offering; but, contract details will determine the real payoff.  It will take time to determine how this will work in practice.

We like HP’s acknowledgement that they are unlikely to be the sole choice as a cloud provider in today’s rapidly maturing market. This reality-based view and the resulting solutions portfolio will help to gain them a presence in many shops.