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What HP’s cloud chief wants you to know about HP’s cloud

The controversies that afflicted Hewlett-Packard(s hpq) in the past few years have given even the most loyal customers and partners pause. This is, after all, a company that has gone through a half dozen CEOs in 6 years. That uncertainty doesn’t help HP’s cloud computing strategy, which had so many moving parts that the company launched yet another reorg to rationalize the effort two months ago. That might help, but HP still needs to prove it can execute on cloud computing and not surprisingly, Zorawar Biri Singh, SVP and GM of HP Cloud Services, says it can.

Here’s a boiled down version of the Q&A I had with Singh Friday afternoon.

Where’s the rest of the HP OpenStack cloud?

The HP public cloud beta that went live in May includes OpenStack-based storage and content delivery network (CDN) components. The compute piece of that cloud will come soon — probably next month at the HP Discover conference in Frankfurt. Singh did not promise code delivery at that time, but said to “stay tuned.” And a betting person would say that the company had better have real code ready for that event.

HP’s aim is to provide a sort of “OpenStack Plus.” Singh said the company will “curate a set of OpenStack code, adding value around billing, metering, identity, orchestration, load balancing, DNS and messaging services — stuff that will extend OpenStack.”

As for private cloud, he said HP is working on it. “Expect us to have a common reference architecture and code base for public and private cloud soon,” he said.

Will enterprises want and wait for HP’s cloud vs. Amazon?

It’s true that it’s still early days for enterprise cloud and  HP contends that big companies want more reliability and service than is available now in any public cloud. They also want “raw service level agreements (SLAs) in which we’ll guarantee you this much performance or will pay you for it,” Singh said. “We think our SLAs will emerge as a differentiator for any cloud vendor.”

HP says its SLAs for object storage and CDN offer 99.95 percent availability compared to 99.90 percent for Amazon(s AMZN) storage and CDN. HP recognizes one failed instance as “unavailable” while AWS says all running instances have to be without external connectivity to be categorized as such.

HP will go after enterprise workloads — traditional mission-critical jobs — as well as newer “mobile stuff.” And enterprise customers have been unwilling to commit mission critical loads to cloud yet, in his view. There are “many customers that won’t commit to the VMware(s vmw) or the IBM(s ibm) stack yet,” he said. Many of HP’s current enterprise customers want an HP cloud, he said.

But why HP Openstack vs. Rackspace or Red Hat OpenStack?

Again, it’s the “OpenStack Plus” argument. HP thinks its enterprise software know-how — all the enterprise IP it’s accumulated with the acquisition of Mercury Interactive and other software companies in the past decade — will make its OpenStack shine above the others. And, Singh said it’s done a ton with OpenStack since it started working on it last year.

The SLA argument holds true here too, he said. According to HP, Rackspace offers 99.90 percent SLA for storage and CDN compared to 99.95 percent for HP.

Finally, HP being a hardware company still, hopes to press that advantage as well by “fusing” OpenStack into its converged hardware.

How will HP sell its cloud?

Part of HP’s problem has been fragmentation of the company itself. People working in servers and storage, enterprise software, PC, or printer group might just have well as been with separate companies. Given that, the hope is that the company can get people together to sell the HP cloud story. The formation of the converged cloud group targeted that problem. And on the sales side, a “cloud strike team” of several hundred people is “incented and paid on cloud alone” Singh said.

Netting it out

So here’s the thing. Singh talked a good game but execution is key. In early October, HP COO Bill Veghte said HP’s cloud related revenue grew 39 percent year over year to $4 billion in 2012, and forecast it will hit $8.4 billion by 2015, that’s an impressive number. But HP most definitely does not have the enterprise cloud space to itself. There it will contend with arch-rival IBM(s ibm) yet again. Meanwhile, Rackspace and Red Hat are promoting their respective OpenStack clouds to a similar set of customers. IBM itself has yet to detail its OpenStack plan, but it, like HP, has said it will bake OpenStack into its hardware. HP’s SLA story is strong, but no one expects the other players attacking this market — including Amazon which is adding more enterprise capabilities to its cloud all the time — will stand still. Look for Amazon to talk up its enterprise pitch at Amazon Re:Invent next week.

It’s true that we’re in the early days of enterprise cloud, but there is no shortage of proven IT powers in addition to HP that are in this game to stay.

13 Responses to “What HP’s cloud chief wants you to know about HP’s cloud”

  1. After 1 year experience with HP Private Cloud solution (HP OO, HP CSA, HP Matrix…) and more than 4 years experience with 3 others solutions, I can’t be covinced that “HP’s vision is aligned nicely with what enterprises want” unless I miss something.
    They have taken an IT technical approach quite long, expensive and complex to integrate and in which some key building blocks are still missing.
    They are surely on the way to fix all this but lately compare to some competitor. Their vision looks more like a follower one.

  2. Quick disclosure: We are a HP Cloud Partner so you may feel this comment is biased. However, we have used several of the other leading cloud solutions as well so I do have a basis for this comparison. The technical support from HP was the best we have seen. They helped us get our software on the HP Cloud in 3 days from start to finish. Using the HP Cloud CDN was even easier. Of course, their database solutions are taking too long to get ready, but people are seriously underestimating the HP Cloud. It has real potential.

  3. Chris McLennan

    Interesting article. Something else to consider: Cloud computing provides an architecture that allows for failure points to be minimized in a very cost effective way. While a traditional enterprise application will have many infrastructure parts (app servers, db servers, web rendering servers, etc.) that must all be working to provide the solution, a newly architected cloud based application can be developed with a multi-cloud, multi-region architecture that can span the application components across different regions, or even different cloud providers. So a raw SLA number might not be as important as the cost of redundancy if the application is architected for cloud. For example, my firm (Ilesfay) offers data replication services between persistent cloud storage providers along with an API so that data can be retrieved from all synchronized locations. When an object is synced between US-east, US-west, EU-west, and AP-Singapore, and the application that is consuming the object is developed to use our API to ensure object availability, then SLAs for each region/provider are able to be combined. The probability of failure is less than in a “traditional” deployment model where the SLAs must be stacked together. Obviously there is cost associated with redundancy, but the RIO is simple to calculate. My take: Businesses want business continuity, not an SLA. An SLA is just a means to achieve as disruption free of an experience as possible.

  4. Jerome Pineau

    “Given that, the hope is that the company can get people together to sell the HP cloud…” — Yeah, I think “hope” is pretty much most of what they have to run on at this stage…Dear Lord…

  5. Direct marketing is the best route to get through to the Enterprise sector these days. Sales and Marketing need to understand that in this time of uncertainty building relationships with your customers is critical. “Life’s a Pitch” :)

  6. Navtaj Chandhoke

    HP curate a set of OpenStack code, adding value around billing, metering, identity, orchestration, load balancing, DNS and messaging services — stuff that will extend OpenStack.

  7. Want to utilize a true HP based cloud? Then get ready to pay big money and wait months to install all the various components; Mercury, Novadigm, Opsware, Peregrine, Openstack, etc – none of which are integrated out of the box. Like all the System Management vendors (see BMC = Proactivenet, Remedy, Patrol, Atrium, Bladelogic, Marimba, etc) time to cloud is long and expensive. There is simply no way around the time is takes to implement acquisition based platforms – except finding a platform that was purposely built to deliver private/hybrid cloud services. It’s out there……

    • Thomas Olsson

      What you are referring to is not HP Cloud Services, but some of the acquisitions made by HP Software. HP Cloud Service Automation is not coming from an acquisition, it is written from scratch. HP Cloud Service Automation utilizes HP Operations Orchestration and HP Server Automation, both solutions came from the Opsware acquisition and supports heterogeneous environments and has a lot of integrations, right out-of-the-box!

  8. Using SLA to compete is interesting because it’s much more like competing on price – competitors can always just match or beat you by changing the numbers. The reason Amazon are so far ahead of everyone else is their continual, incremental improvements and releases (just like Apple in the consumer products space). SLAs and performance guarantees have improved with Amazon over time; for example S3 now has 3 different types of storage depending on what SLA you need (reduced redundancy, standard and Glacier). And the Provisioned IOPS EBS option gives you that guaranteed i/o throughput.

    I think where HP could bring something unique is how they match their hardware with the software. Advanced monitoring and management functionality for private cloud makes sense. Enterprise level support offerings could also be possible but that’s leaning towards where Rackspace have a big advantage.

    HP need to pick something unique and I don’t think SLAs are it.