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Salary pressure

The pool of talent available to draw upon is small, and with 120 companies listed as members of the OpenStack community, competition for it is fierce. OpenStack supporters Korea Telecom and NTT are also building and rolling out their own OpenStack clouds, making the competition even tougher. Those individuals who do know how to program OpenStack are getting passed around and snapped up.

Rick Clark famously flamed out of Rackspace for fellow OpenStack member Cisco earlier this year. Even OpenStack leader Rackspace is being challenged when it comes to rolling out more services: The Reg has learned that OpenStack is running on just 350 of its hosting servers, more than a year after Rackspace helped unveil the project.

Such is the level of demand that salaries are rocketing: The Reg hears of one recruitment company in San Francisco's Bay Area offering a Googly or Facebook-style starting pay for engineers with experience in OpenStack of $160,000.

"You have to figure out how to get the right DNA into your business. The next big thing to do is to get involved in one of these projects where there are a lot of those guys" – Bias

One OpenStack community member reckoned HP had a long way to go in building its cloud. He's in stealth mode, launching a start-up he claims will deliver clever, provider-level service to the vanilla OpenStack, so naturally he'd make such a claim, but the demands of performance, scale and reliability on public cloud architectures are undeniable.

"I spoke briefly to them; they are very excited about what they are doing," he said, damning with faint praise.

Randy Bias, CTO and co-founder of OpenStack start-up Cloudscaling, was blunt when he talked to us about the architecture challenge that lies ahead of HP: "What you see in OpenStack today is only 10 per cent of what it takes to build a cloud. The big companies are trying to get in on the hype and momentum because they know they have to, but they have the people inside their business."

HP will quickly achieve a "service-style cloud" but a "web-style cloud" is different, he said. "You have to figure out how to get the right DNA into your business. The next big thing to do is to get involved in one of these projects where there are a lot of those guys," he said.

The problem for HP is everybody in the OpenStack community is trying to learn from each other, while keeping whatever they are working on top secret to gain a competitive edge. "The peer pressure is great because we are all learning from each other," our anonymous community member told us.

If HP is trying to be all clouds to all people, then it'll have to tackle the kinds of customers that might actually have gone for its earlier bet: Windows Azure from Microsoft.

HP is one of Microsoft's biggest partners meaning there's a lot of enterprise-grade customers who could be flipped to the cloud. This is something Microsoft has been trying, as it has talked up the earth-bound enterprise users of its software building apps for, and delivered on, Windows Azure.

A vote for OpenStack doesn't necessarily mean HP has turned its back on these Windows customers. If HP does live up to its claim of providing private clouds – services separated logically, physically or programmatically from the apps and data owned in the cloud by other people – then HP can theoretically do so running OpenStack on its servers with Windows.

OpenStack runs on Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V, meaning Microsoft shops get the added plus of Microsoft's management tools without being locked into Azure.

It's not clear, however, how HP will serve Windows customers that want to use C#, ASP.Net, IIS and SQL Server on the public cloud. Microsoft has prepared these things for its own cloud, not OpenStack. And judging by the dearth of OpenStack experience out there and the fact that most OpenStack programmers aren't interested in Microsoft, it will take HP or Microsoft to do the tuning.

So far, Microsoft has only been able to offer more dates for an Azure service from HP. In July, Microsoft claimed HP "looks forward" to making services available to customers "later this year".

Windows or OpenStack?

For a server maker like HP, giving enterprise customers a choice of Azure or OpenStack is the equivalent of giving them the choice of Windows or Linux on a ProLiant server; it means freedom from being locked into the whims of a single supplier. It is an option Apple has gone for, by picking Microsoft and Amazon to run iCloud rather than just going with one or the other.

"That's the biggest fear the enterprise has: can I move if you become too expensive," a member of the OpenStack community told us. With OpenStack running on Windows Server 2008, OpenStackers would get Microsoft's management without the Azure lock-in.

HP claim its cloud will become all things to all people: public, private and hybrid. This, despite the fact that HP has little experience in building or running one of these, combined with the fact that there's a shortage of people who can help it. This wouldn't be a problem in normal circumstances, if you were a startup or a business running with diverse sources of income. But when you're thinking about cutting loose one of those cash generators, the need to be get it right – and quickly – is critical. ®

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