Welcome!

Cloud Expo Authors: Pieter Van Heck, Elizabeth White, Shelly Palmer, Maxime Charlès, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: Cloud Expo, OpenStack Journal

Cloud Expo: Blog Feed Post

Hewlett Packard: A Tale of Many Clouds

HP has the technical pieces. It has the people pieces, some of the business model pieces. It has parts of the compelling story.

Hewlett Packard used its Discover event in Frankfurt last week to reassert the company’s cloud credentials. Public, private, hybrid; HP is painting pictures that encompass them all, whilst seeking to protect hardware revenues and reassure conservative executives at some of its largest and most profitable customers. But HP has been here before, making bold claims and telling people what they wanted to hear about an HP cloud upon which enterprises could depend. This time, will the company deliver?

Earlier this year, satirical news site The Onion took a cruel but funny swipe at HP’s cloud pretensions. HP, the sketch suggested, had the answers, the technology, and a lot of cloud. The company has done — and continues to do — a lot right in this space, but it really did bring this derision upon itself. Mixed messaging, repeated announcements of amazing new cloud services that never quite saw the light of day, an endless stream of apparent strategy U-turns that must surely have left long-time HP executives as dizzy as those trying to understand their intentions? None of this helped HP. But now, Windows Azure is apparently behind us. PalmOS (or whatever it’s called these days) is no longer a glue to bind hardware, peripherals, software and data together. Amazon is an inevitable piece of the whole. And at HP, the new story is one (more or less) of an OpenStack public cloud called HP Cloud (or HP Public Cloud), a VMware private cloud called Cloud System, and a professional services sell called Managed Cloud for Enterprise (which is messily spread across large swathes of HP’s dreadful website, with no obvious landing page to link here).

A public cloud

The biggest cloud news out of Discover was probably the General Availability (at last) of HP’s OpenStack-powered public cloud offering. In keynotes and workshops, it was somewhat surprising to see the extent to which OpenStack and other enabling technologies were not mentioned. This was HP’s cloud, and the implication was clearly that HP know-how was what made it tick. HP hardware, HP software, HP cleverness. None of the ‘Intel Inside’ co-branding, Microsoft Diamond Sponsor loviness or VMware strategic partner rhetoric for this open source project, it seems. But, more relevantly, also none of the recognition that other named open source projects like the various Linux distributions do receive from HP.

Given the rather raw state of some OpenStack components, HP engineers have been busy stitching pieces together, but I would have expected HP to be telling more of a story about portability, about interoperability, and about the breadth and depth of the OpenStack community that customers would be joining. That story wasn’t told, and you had to know where to look to find much mention of the elusive OpenStack at all.

One place, it must be said, where the company was far more forthcoming was in the private Coffee Talks arranged for us by the team at Ivy. In frank cloud discussions such as those with Christian Verstraete, Chris Purcell, Florian Otel and others, far more of the detail — and rationale — was laid on the table.

Pricing is competitive, and it will be interesting to see how HP moves forward here. HP’s public cloud makes plenty of sense for enterprise customers already using HP kit and services elsewhere. But will a startup or a non-customer choose the HP Cloud in preference to Amazon or Google or Rackspace?

They might, if the messaging is right. German cloud analyst René Büst asserted in Frankfurt that “the next Instagram would never choose to start and grow on the HP Cloud”, as Amazon has all the mind-share in the startup community. Does HP care enough about the world beyond existing enterprise accounts to accept René’s challenge and entice that next cool startup? Is it, frankly, worth their while when their entire selling and support machine is geared toward people in suits who value fancy lunches and a Christmas card far more than credit card sign-up and cost competitiveness?

A private cloud

HP’s private cloud offering has been around a little longer, but the company reiterated — and reinforced — messages originally delivered at the Las Vegas Discover a few months back; Cloud System supports ‘bursting’ of compute jobs from an enterprise’s own private cloud to external providers such as HP’s public cloud and Amazon. This is a capability that will become increasingly important as even the most conservative enterprise customers begin their gradual transition out of the data centre and into the cloud.

Whatever Amazon and Salesforce executives might say in public about “the false cloud” or the number of Fortune 100 companies happily doing something on their public cloud infrastructure, they and we know that this is going to be a long game. HP’s flagship customers will move. Eventually, they’ll move almost everything. But it will take a decade or more, and there’s plenty of time to sell a few more private clouds and an awful lot of servers and storage arrays before that day comes.

A recognition of Amazon

HP’s messaging no longer tries to persuade customers that it will always meet every one of their cloud needs. HP has products and solutions to offer, but it is recognising that it needs to fit into a complex mixed environment. The company also recognises that Amazon is an inevitable part of that environment, and that HP solutions need to augment and add value with respect to Amazon. Helping customers to use Amazon when it’s appropriate is a far more effective strategy, long term, than either denying Amazon’s existence or insisting that its solutions are not fit for enterprise consumption. Neither are true, and HP’s customers are smart enough to realise that.

The SLA is king, maybe

One area in which HP is trying to differentiate itself from Amazon is in terms of Service Level Agreements, and this should play well with an enterprise audience. Rather than necessarily worrying about what hardware cloud infrastructure runs on, or whether it’s located on-premise, in a known and audited off-premise location, or out there in the fuzziness of the unbounded public cloud, HP is telling a story that focuses far more upon level of service, level of resilience, etc. This makes a lot of sense. I often don’t actually care whether data runs on my own machines or not. What I care about is whether or not my compliance and business requirements are being met. So instead of choosing public or private, off-premise or on, it makes a lot more sense to think about the business and compliance requirements that a particular solution helps me meet. One solution (on or off-premise) may be more secure, more robust, more disaster resilient, and it will come with an SLA (and a price tag) to reflect that. Another (again, on or off-premise) may be more suited to general crunching of less sensitive data. It’ll be more prone to failure, and cheaper. We tend to assume that our own data centre is the logical home of the former, and that the public cloud is a pretty cost-effective way to handle the latter. That’s not necessarily true, and that’s why it’s refreshing to at least begin to think in more nuanced terms. Unfortunately, although HP execs planted these ideas during their keynotes, the follow-up material quickly fell back into public v private, dodgy commodity kit v HP ‘enterprise grade’ hardware, etc. And that’s a shame.

Gartner’s Lydia Leong takes a deeper look at HP’s latest SLAs, and suggests that they may not be living up to their own rhetoric either. There’s plenty of work still to do in this area, and an effective means of differentiating service and value propositions is long overdue.

Dell goes the other way

HP uses OpenStack for the company’s public cloud, and VMware sits beneath their private offerings. Speaking at Dell World this week, Michael Dell announced that his company is doing the exact opposite; Dell’s existing VMware-powered public cloud is to be joined by a private cloud offering powered by OpenStack.

The public and private offerings of HP and Dell certainly aren’t directly comparable, but it is interesting that the two companies have reached such superficially odd decisions. It even raises the prospect that a customer of HP’s private cloud may find it easier to move to Dell’s public cloud than to HP’s, and that a customer of Dell’s private cloud may find it easier to move workloads to HP’s public cloud than to stick with Dell. Odd at best, this should be raising eyebrows in both Round Rock and Palo Alto.

Will the Converged Cloud actually, you know, Converge?

HP has a lot to say about convergence, both in terms of their hardware business but also in the cloud. And yet, it can be surprisingly difficult to see how the public and private pieces of the HP cloud portfolio really fit together. More often than I’d have expected, HP staffers discussing either the public or private cloud offerings spoke as if theirs was the only cloud in HP-land. A slip of the tongue once, or perhaps twice, but this was repeated again and again and again in Frankfurt. The joined-up story, and the reality of customers starting in either HP Cloud or Cloud System before realising a need to embrace parts of the other doesn’t seem to be getting through on the ground.

HP is a big ship, with some smart people and some great technology. But if it doesn’t tell a single — compelling — story and back it up with an attractive business model, it’s toast.

I can’t remember who it was, but someone in Frankfurt remarked in passing that HP would come through its current troubles “because it had technical chops.” Sadly for HP, that is simply not true. You can have the best technology in the world. But without a defined (or creatable) market requirement, a viable business proposition, and some credible messaging, all of that amazing technology is just some very expensive scrap metal. And a fatal red stain, spreading across the balance sheet.

HP has the technical pieces. It has the people pieces. It has some of the business model pieces. It has parts of the compelling story. It’s time the company joined those together credibly, filled in the gaps, and stopped shooting itself in the foot.

At least starve The Onion of material, so its writers have to try a little harder next time.

Disclosure: acting on behalf of Hewlett Packard, Ivy Worldwide invited me to Discover and covered travel and expenses associated with the trip. There was no requirement that I write about HP, and no requirement that any coverage be favourable.

Image by Flickr user Jose Roberto V Moraes

More Stories By Paul Miller

Paul Miller works at the interface between the worlds of Cloud Computing and the Semantic Web, providing the insights that enable you to exploit the next wave as we approach the World Wide Database. He blogs at www.cloudofdata.com.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Cloud Expo Breaking News
“The Internet of Things is a wave that has arrived and it’s growing really fast. The concern at Aria Systems is making sure that people understand the ramifications of their attempts to monetize whatever it is they build on the Internet of Things," explained C Brendan O’Brien, Co-founder and Chief Architect at Aria Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the Internet of @ThingsExpo, held June 10-12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City. Internet of @ThingsExpo 2014 Silicon Valley, November 4–6, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading IoT industry players in the world.
“About two years ago Brother launched a new group called Brother Online. We thought it was a good idea for a hardware company to get into the cloud services market and our first step into that market was web conferencing,” explained Courtney Behrens, Senior Marketing Manager at Brother International, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 14th International Cloud Expo®, held June 10-12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City. Cloud Expo® 2014 Silicon Valley, November 4–6, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading Cloud industry players in the world.
"So many teams have been stuck in their own practices for the last ten years and it's really hard to sell all the latest and greatest tools, but the reality is all the tools around operations have evolved so much you are starting to see a big shift toward upgrading that tool set, focusing more on automation, more on cloud," explained Dustin Whittle, Developer Evangelist at AppDynamics, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the DevOps Summit, held June 10-12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City.
“We provide disaster recovery services as well as solutions. We also provide back-up solutions that work across your internal on-premise assets as well as in the public and private cloud," stated Joel Ferman, Vice President of Marketing at InMage Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 14th International Cloud Expo® (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com/), held June 10-12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City. Cloud Expo® 2014 Silicon Valley, November 4–6, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading Cloud industry players in the world.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Harbinger Systems will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Harbinger Systems is a global company providing software technology services. Since 1990, Harbinger has developed a strong customer base worldwide. Its customers include software product companies ranging from hi-tech start-ups in Silicon Valley to leading product companies in the US and large in-house IT organizations.
“Distrix fits into the overall cloud and IoT model around software-defined networking. There’s a broad category around software-defined networking that’s focused on data center, and we focus on the WAN,” explained Jay Friedman, President of Distrix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the Internet of @ThingsExpo, held June 10-12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City. Internet of @ThingsExpo 2014 Silicon Valley, November 4–6, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading IoT industry players in the world.
“Dell Cloud Manager is a cloud management environment for the consumption of cloud resources and we provide a consistent interface, both in terms of API and in terms of user interface for doing a wide variety of activities core to deploying and operating software in cloud," explained James Urquhart, Technologist & Director of Cloud Management Solutions at Dell, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 14th International Cloud Expo®, held June 10-12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City. Cloud Expo® 2014 Silicon Valley, November 4–6, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading Cloud industry players in the world.
SYS-CON Events announced today that the Cloud Standards Customer Council (CSCC ) has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. The Cloud Standards Customer Council is an end user advocacy group dedicated to accelerating cloud's successful adoption, and drilling down into the standards, security and interoperability issues surrounding the transition to the cloud. The Council will provide cloud users with the opportunity to drive client requirements into standards development organizations and deliver materials such as best practices and use cases to assist other enterprises.
“Ambernet Technologies is an innovative software company and we’ve been very focused on building enterprise grade cloud management and cloud brokerage software," explained Troy Halford, CSO of Ambernet Technologies, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 14th International Cloud Expo®, held June 10-12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City. Cloud Expo® 2014 Silicon Valley, November 4–6, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading Cloud industry players in the world.
“We introduced our product called AgilData. It’s basically the first Agile view, a streaming view of looking at a database and data as a streaming real-time dynamic capability," explained Cory Isaacson, CEO/CTO of CodeFutures Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 14th International Cloud Expo®, held June 10-12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City. Cloud Expo® 2014 Silicon Valley, November 4–6, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading Cloud industry players in the world.
“As the move to the cloud started, we stayed ahead of that by providing security solutions to our enterprise customers, financial customers, and now a whole new range of customers, which are application developers," explained John Gunn, VP of Corporate Communications for VASCO Data Security, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 14th International Cloud Expo®, held June 10-12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City. Cloud Expo® 2014 Silicon Valley, November 4–6, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading Cloud industry players in the world.
The industry is heated with debates on whether adopting private or public cloud is the smartest, best, cheapest, you name it choice. But this debate is missing the mark. Businesses shouldn’t be discussing public vs. private, but rather how can they make the two work together to their greatest advantage. The ideal is to merge on-premise and off-premise into a seamless environment that can be managed as a single entity – a forward-looking stance that will eventually see major adoption. But as of late 2013, hybrid cloud was still “rare,” noted Gartner analyst Tom Bittman. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Marten Mickos, CEO of Eucalyptus Systems, will discuss how public clouds need on-premise satellites to win and, conversely, how on-premise environments cannot be really powerful unless they are connected to the public cloud. It’s not two competing worlds; it’s two dimensions of the same world.
SYS-CON Events announced today that the Wall Street Technology Association (WSTA) has been named "Association Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. The Wall Street Technology Association (WSTA®) provides financial industry technology professionals, vendors, service providers, and consultants with forums to learn from and connect with each other. The WSTA facilitates seminars and networking events where members meet and exchange ideas and best practices that assist them in effectively capitalizing on technology advances and dealing with financial industry business challenges. Founded in 1967, the WSTA is a not-for-profit association with a long history of evolving to meet the needs of its members.
“We just completed the roll out of our first public and private cloud offerings, which are a combination of public, hybrid, and private cloud,” stated Erik Levitt, CEO of Open Data Centers, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 14th International Cloud Expo®, held June 10-12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City. Cloud Expo® 2014 Silicon Valley, November 4–6, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading Cloud industry players in the world.
“Veeam Cloud Connect is about being able to connect service providers with Veeam end users and Veeam customers and giving Veeam customers a quick, easy and secure way to get their backup files up to the cloud,” explained Doug Hazelman, VP, Product Strategy, and Chief Evangelist at Veeam, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 14th International Cloud Expo®, held June 10-12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City. Cloud Expo® 2014 Silicon Valley, November 4–6, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading Cloud industry players in the world.