HP plugs CloudSystem into Amazon and other heavens
Where blades go to die
Hewlett-Packard is expanding its CloudSystem private cloud platform beyond the corporate firewall to service providers itching to make some dough on this cloud computing razzmatazz.
If you were expecting Hewlett-Packard to make big announcements at its Discover 2011 event in Las Vegas concerning its rumored Scalene public cloud  or its forthcoming hosted and private clouds based on Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud stack , you were no doubt disappointed. HP's top brass didn't want to talk about either of these today. They focused on how the company was beefing up its CloudSystem so that it could bridge the gap between internal, private clouds based on HP's BladeSystem servers and hosted private clouds or public clouds run by telecom companies and hosting providers
The CloudSystem is not something new, of course. There's a lot of bundling and name changing going on, and HP is perhaps guilty of this more than its peers in the upper echelons of the IT racket. HP has been peddling something it calls BladeSystem Matrix  since rival Cisco Systems entered the server racket in early 2009 with a blade server line called the Unified Computing System, sporting converged server and storage networks and integrated management of virtualized compute, storage, and networking.
BladeSystem is, of course, the name of the HP blade server line. What made it a Matrix, and therefore cooler, was a hodge-podge HP systems software – Insight systems management software merged with the orchestration software that came from Opsware (formerly known as Opsware Workflow), both of which were given a graphical templating environment to make it easier to provision, patch, and manage servers and their software. HP initially only supported ProLiant x64 physical blades running Windows or Linux or VMware and Microsoft hypervisors (ESX and Hyper-V, respectively), but eventually added Itanium-based Integrity blades  running HP-UX or OpenVMS to the hardware/software stack.
Shh, don't say blade.
Then the words "blade" and "matrix" were no longer cool, and earlier this year, HP added some more cloudy features  to the stack – adding new code to existing programs such as Operations Orchestration, SiteScope, Server Automation, Cloud Service Portal, and Service Gateway – and changed the name of the product to CloudSystem Matrix. That software stack got a new name, too: Cloud Service Automation Suite.
In January, when the latest iteration of the CloudSystem Matrix and its CSA software stack debuted, HP said that the tools would eventually enable customers running private clouds to be able to burst out to other platforms, including HP's ProLiant rack and tower servers, as well as out to do cloud bursting out to public clouds like Amazon's EC2.
Today, HP started making good on that promise. In a briefing for the press from Discover, Steven Dietch, vice president of cloud solutions and infrastructure at HP, said that starting today, the company would support the provisioning and management of non-HP servers sporting either Intel Xeon or Advanced Micro Devices Opteron processors.
'We are open! Like everyone else'
This move, explained Dietch, was yet another example of the openness that HP espouses in its clouds and stands in stark contrast to the integrated, monolithic clouds being sold by rivals IBM, Oracle, and Dell. The CloudSystem Matrix machines support ESX, Hyper-V, and Integrity VMs at the hypervisor layer; HP, EMC, and NetApp disk arrays for storage; and HP, Cisco, and Brocade Communications switches at the network layer. HP would be the first to admit, however, that the HP-only stack makes best use of the CloudSystem Matrix features.
HP is also making slow progress on getting the CloudSystem Matrix private clouds hooked into private clouds, and has a connector for the CSA tools that allow it to plug into the Symphony Virtual Private Data Center cloud  operated by Savvis (recently acquired by CenturyLink ) and allow for workloads running on CloudSystem to be burst out to that Savvis cloud. This cloudbursting capability is in tech preview now and will be ready for primetime by the end of the year. Savvis, by the way, has standardized on HP ProLiant servers and VMware ESXi for its virtualization layer, and presumably you have to start with ESX images on the CloudSystem to burst out to the Savvis cloud; HP was unable to clarify this at press time.
HP has also broken the CloudSystem product line into three bits (PDF)  as it adds cloudbursting capability and chases service providers trying to encourage them to build their clouds based on CloudSystem Matrix iron. The plain vanilla CloudSystem Matrix outlined above keeps its name and is the basic internal private infrastructure cloud that HP has been shipping for more than two years. CloudSystem Enterprise provides a single pane of glass to manage private clouds, applications running on standalone, physical servers, and in hybrid mode across public and private clouds.
Manage your life
The Enterprise edition of CloudSystem also has lifecycle management tools to cope with the deployment and retirement of infrastructure and applications. The CloudSystem Service Provider edition is, as the name suggested, tailored for service providers building public or hosted private clouds on behalf of customers in IaaS, PaaS, or SaaS modes. HP is offering each CloudSystem suite in small, medium, and large configurations, but details on what is in each setup and their prices were not divulged.
The company also rolled out an upgrade service that allows companies that have deployed BladeSystem blade servers to elevate their existing installations to CloudSystem status, and is now offering high-end "solution support" that was previously only available to the top HP shops through its 35 global solution centers to anyone buying CloudSystem setups. Basically, if you are buying into HP's cloud strategy, you are now in the inner circle and entitled to the very best of handholding. Presumably not for free, of course.
The cloudbursting capability that HP announced today is called Utility Ready Computing when you burst to your own internal servers and service providers who want to offer this capability have to join something called the HP CloudAgile program and get certified. Verizon, NaviSite, OpSource, Datapipe, Axcient, SHI, and Harris are all members of the CloudAgile program, and presumably Savvis will be although it was not on the short list. Dietch says that the HP sales team has been incentivized to get paid whether a customer installs a CloudSystem setup internally, goes with a third party cloud provider, or uses a mix of the two approaches.
One other thing HP is using to sweeten the CloudSystem sales pitch is $2bn in capital it is making available through HP Financial Services to finance cloud projects. That cash is available in a number of different forms, including leases for new gear, sale and leaseback for current gear to free up cash, deferred payment plans, and low-rate financing for servers, storage, and networking. ®