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HP punts turnkey Matrix cloud

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HP is rolling out a new product dubbed CloudStart, a means of designing, building, and installing a private cloud based on Matrix iron. That includes training IT staff on how to use it and porting over four existing customer applications to the cloudy infrastructure.

It's one thing to sell cloudy infrastructure and quite another to sell a turnkey cloud. The history of the systems business for the past five decades shows that some companies want to assemble their own IT infrastructure from piece parts as they acquire and integrate what they believe are to be best-of-breed components that will, once assembled, give them an edge over competitors. Other companies, however, do not have the skills, time, or inclination to select and integrate components. They want someone to come in and "stand up" a solution, as the evolving cloud lingo goes.

HP has been peddling its BladeSystem Matrix iron, initially based on ProLiant x64 blades and restricted to Windows and Linux platforms when they launched in April 2009 but expanded to include Integrity blades running HP-UX, as its preferred cloudy infrastructure. The BladeSystem matrix includes VirtualConnect and FlexFabric virtualized I/O and the Matrix Operating Environment, a hodge-podge of Opsware and other tools for provisioning and managing virtual machines and applications on the Matrix iron, creating what HP has called "a push-button data center." But a Matrix is not a private cloud so much as it is a foundation for one.

Thus, at the VMworld virtualization and now cloud extravaganza in San Francisco this week, an acquisition-busy HP is rolling out CloudStart. As part of the CloudStart bundle, HP is offering out a new management tool call Cloud Service Automation for BladeSystem Matrix, which is a cloud-aware application and virtual infrastructure provisioning tool that is not the same thing as the Matrix Operating Environment. The Cloud Service Automation tool leverages the MOE, but includes a self-service portal, resource metering and chargeback, and reporting features that private clouds require.

The portal for managing cloudy infrastructure is as yet only available on x64-based ProLiant blade servers, but Nick van der Zweep, director of business strategy for industry standard servers and software, it will eventually be ported to Itanium-based blades. The cloud automation software also now includes HP StorageWorks Provisioning Manager for doing policy-based storage provisioning for the blades in the Matrix setup in a private cloud, much as VirtualConnect/FlexFabric has policy-driven provisioning of networks.

The underlying Matrix Operating Environment has more sophisticated disaster recovery for physical servers in a Matrix setup, so in the even that a physical server starts crashing, the Matrix management software and convert the physical server to a virtual one and them recover it in a VM on another blade in the cloud.

The CloudStart bundle is based on a BladeSystem Matrix starter kit, which has eight ProLiant c-Class blade servers, licenses for VMware vSphere virtualization for those eight blades, an EVA 4400 storage array appropriate for providing data storage for the blades, and a chassis for the blades. (Customers can swap out vSphere for Microsoft's Hyper-V if they want to save a bit of money). The empty Matrix starter kit runs around $132,000, with the eight blades costing around $30,000 and the EVA running around $32,000, according to van der Zweep. HP then tosses in startup and installation services for the cloudy infrastructure, which costs around $57,000. That puts the total initial price tag at $190,000 for a baby private cloud that can be expanded to around 1,000 server nodes.

The HP services engagement for the CloudStart includes a pre-order assessment of what infrastructure the customer already has in its IT shop and figures out four workloads that HP will move to the cloud for the customer. HP builds the gear, sets it up, and ports those four workloads to the Matrix iron and adds it to the Cloud Service Automation portal, showing admins how to add other applications to this portal as part of the training for how it all works. HP says it can do the CloudStart engagement quickly - in 30 days or less from the moment the server and storage show up.

Right now, the CloudStart bundle only works with VMware ESX Server and Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisors, but will soon be expanded to HP's own Integrity VMs for Itanium-based blades. Van der Zweep said that HP did not yet have plans for supporting Xen or KVM hypervisors on the CloudStart iron.

HP is making CloudStart available in the Asia/Pacific region and in Japan starting today, and expects to have it available to customers around the glove by December.

In related announcements, HP said that Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh has tapped HP to build a testbed cloud for research on cloudy infrastructure that is being done at the university. The exact feeds and speeds of the test cloud have not been revealed, but van der Zweep says this is a true research cloud, not one intended to be used in production to run the university. VMware is also participating in the cloudy test bed research at CMU. The university is buying a bunch of CloudStart setups to replace several different clusters that research have been making cloudy as they run various simulation and data analysis workloads. ®

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