Summary:

An HP executive “accidentally” spilled the beans of HP’s upcoming cloud computing plans on his LinkedIn page yesterday, but the mere presence of the plans isn’t as important as is the fact that they look pretty solid.

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An HP executive “accidentally” spilled the beans of HP’s upcoming cloud computing plans on his LinkedIn page yesterday, but the mere presence of the plans isn’t as important as is the fact that they look pretty solid.

The Register reported last night that Scott McClellan, chief technologist and interim vice president of engineering for HP’s new cloud services business, posted the plans on his LinkedIn page but they have subsequently been pulled. McClellan described plans for computing, networking and storage services, as well as shared management services that span the core infrastructure services.

Two components of HP’s plans stand out: the multiple storage options and the declarative provisioning model. HP appears to be planning both object storage a la Amazon S3, as well as a block storage service a la Amazon Elastic Block Store. You’ll recall that EBS was the underlying cause of Amazon Web Services’ recent four-day outage, so the pressure will be on HP to architect its block storage service in a manner that avoids the flaws in AWS’s initial design. But providing a variety of storage services is critical to attracting a breadth of applications and users, so it’s difficult to argue with the decision to do both.

The declarative provisioning model, through which “users provide a specification and the system automates deployment and management” smells a lot like what AWS is doing with its CloudFormation feature, and resembles what we’re seeing from configuration startups Opscode and Puppet Labs (see disclosure). In those three offerings, users write simple code describing the desired configurations and the system automatically creates the desired infrastructure. Although HP wouldn’t be the first one to the dance, this deployment model is still relatively cutting-edge, and HP is wise to get in relatively early.

Because of an anonymous source stating that this news was planned for release at VMworld in August, there’s speculation that HP’s cloud computing efforts will be VMware-based. Such a plan would make quite a bit of sense, actually. VMware’s virtualization technologies already provide the foundation for numerous public IaaS clouds, and its new Cloud Foundry platform-as-service project could provide a nice PaaS foundation for HP. But don’t think HP is planning a turnkey cloud based entirely on prepackaged VMware products, at any rate: as McClellan noted, the object storage service, at least, will be “built from scratch.”

I also wouldn’t count out the possibility of HP offering a service based on Microsoft Windows Azure. The leaked plans make no mention of Windows Azure or even .NET, but HP is an early partner for the Windows Azure Appliance program, and like fellow partners Dell and Fujitsu, it behooves HP to provide customers with a variety of deployment options. It goes back to the concept of the data center as the new server, which makes offering VMware- and Azure-based cloud service akin to offering both Windows and Linux servers. Even Rackspace, which is leading the OpenStack effort, is kicking around the idea of offering Windows Azure as a service.

As for the accidental nature of HP’s cloud disclosure, I’m not so sure I’m buying it. Members of the cloud press and punditry were generally skeptical about HP’s vague announcement of grand cloud computing plans in March (myself included), so it’s in HP’s best interests to stir up a little excitement, particularly with Interop , our own Structure 2011 and HP’s Discover 2011 event coming up in the next couple months. HP doesn’t have anything to show yet, but at least now it’s part of the discussion.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Stig Nygaard.

Disclosure: Puppet Labs is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.

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