HP unveils cloud services with an OpenStack flavor

On Wednesday HP (s hpq) released its first two public cloud computing services for private beta, and they’re based in part on the open-source OpenStack code. The services, some details of which were leaked in the spring, are HP Cloud Compute and HP Cloud Object Storage. The news certainly helps validate the OpenStack project, but it’s too early to tell whether HP can make it as a public cloud provider.

As HP VP of Cloud Solutions Patrick Harr told me in June, the new services aim to compete directly with other developer-focused cloud services such as Amazon Web Services (s amzn) and Rackspace (s rax), which leads the OpenStack project. HP announced its OpenStack membership in late July, but it would seem the company has been working with the code since before that time.

As sexy as the OpenStack angle is, though — HP is the first major provider other than Rackspace to publicly use OpenStack code in an availabIe offering — it appears a stretch to call the new cloud services “OpenStack-based.” HP’s Emil Sayegh wrote on his blog announcing HP’s official entrée into public cloud computing, saying, “Both offerings are based on HP’s world class hardware and software with key elements of HP Converged Infrastructure and HP Software combined with a developer friendly, integration of OpenStack through our easy to use, web-based User Interface (UI) along with open, RESTful APIs.”

Right now HP’s approach appears different from that of fellow server maker Dell (s dell), which launched its own Infrastructure-as-a-Service play last week. Whereas Dell is starting with a VMware vCloud-based offering and expanding to Microsoft Windows Azure and OpenStack-based clouds, HP looks to have settled on one service and to have written much of its own code.

I’m leery (and I’m not alone) that a new Infrastructure-as-a-Service provider can compete with market leader AWS, but if anyone can match AWS on economies of scale and overall investment, it’s a giant like HP (or perhaps Dell). Rackspace has neither HP’s revenue nor its software expertise, and IBM’s (s ibm) SmartCloud service appears more focused on risk-averse enterprise developers than on mainstream programmers.

Assuming HP has tweaked the OpenStack code to make it ready for prime time beyond object storage (that part is based on the Rackspace Cloud Files code), the next question is whether these new services can help polish HP’s tarnished image. With the private beta just starting, it’s too early to tell on the technical side, but I’d say HP handled this launch eloquently.

The company is declining further comment at this time, but that might be for the best. Just launching the services is enough to generate buzz, and integrating with OpenStack is sure to garner some intrigue, as well.

When beta users start talking and when HP opens the doors on its cloud services to the public, then we’ll see how HP really stacks up as a cloud computing provider.

Image courtesy Flickr user Horia Varlan