On Tuesday HP announced the following additions to its two-month-old Converged Cloud portfolio:
- Cloud services geared at the airline industry;
- Features to build hybrid clouds;
- Cloud application management tools;
- A cloud printing application;
- New cloud skills certifications.
The announcements are a boost to the company's fledgling cloud initiative, which has thousands of customers signing on for private cloud services, according to HP. It also reports almost 200 managed cloud customers, and more than 650 installations of CloudSystem, which provides the core of the Converged Cloud platform.
HP contends that the future of enterprise cloud computing will be a hybrid approach, a mix of public, private and combined that will vary from customer to customer. The company also maintains that it's the best-positioned vendor for a hybrid cloud approach that meets the needs of enterprises, something many cloud providers don't understand.
"What we don't want to do is sell you a cloud silo," said Terrence Ngai, director of worldwide enterprise cloud solutions. "Customers are worried about vendor lock-in."
The announcements demonstrate that HP is taking its cloud strategy seriously, said Torsten Volk, a senior analyst at Enterprise Management Associates. "Similar to its key competitors--IBM, BMC, VCE and CA Technologies--HP is leveraging its extensive range of enterprise management products to provide a strong cloud framework," he said, adding the company's focus on application management, big data and dev ops is in line with where the market is heading. "It is exciting to see the integration of HP's 2011 acquisitions of Autonomy and Vertica with the company's converged cloud strategy. Allowing customers to take advantage of IDOL and Vertica to analyze Hadoop data, without having to move this data first, is an exciting new capability. Understanding large bodies of unstructured, cross-domain data and turning this understanding into rapid actions is one of the core requirements for organizations to be successful in a more and more competitive marketplace."
Still, Volk cautioned, it won't be easy for HP. Its competitors have offered big data solutions for a while and are constantly adding to their cloud strategies. IBM's PureFlex and PureApplication systems, both launched in the spring, are excellent examples of the rapid speed of innovation within the converged cloud marketplace, he said.
"The new HP initiatives are significant and broad in range. In order to catch up with the competition, HP will have to continue integrating and streamlining its growing stack of cloud applications," Volk said. "HP will also have to aggressively contrast its abilities to those of the competition--VCE, IBM, BMC and CA Technologies. Being late to the game is a liability for HP, and it will be interesting to follow the company's next steps to close the gap within this highly competitive marketplace."
James Staten, a VP and principal analyst at Forrester Research, said HP's cloud story really has two chapters. "As a public cloud provider, they are just getting started with both their public IaaS offering [only in beta] and hosted private clouds [by enterprise services] also just getting started," he explained. On the converged infrastructure front, the company has been providing these systems for several years and is the clear market leader, he said.
HP has offered--both solo and with third parties--an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) software stack atop the BladeSystem Matrix for at least two years, and formalized the effort in the CloudSystem last year, Staten said. "Their claim of 650 installed systems is a strong number, but we don't have evidence that nearly that many are actually being used as private clouds. This isn't HP's fault, but that of the customers who just aren't operationally mature enough to operate and offer a true private cloud to their constituents. Our data suggests that only 8% to 12% of enterprise IT shops actually have the operational maturity to offer a true private cloud. By this, we mean an IaaS with full automation, self-service and resource tracking. So I would look at the CloudSystem sales number as further evidence of HP's traction with converged infrastructures."
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