HP puffs up virtual private clouds

Cloud bursts from CloudSystem private iron

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As Amazon Web Services figured out nearly three years ago, companies don't want to buy virtual servers, they want to buy multi-tiered virtual private clouds consisting of a mix of servers, storage, networking, and other services that act like a real data center.

Hewlett-Packard is playing catch up, like everyone else in the cloudy infrastructure racket, and at the Discover 2012 partner and customer event in Las Vegas has pre-announced virtual private cloud capability for its HP Cloud Services public cloud.

The HP public cloud, which is built from HP's own ProLiant rack servers and network switches and which runs the "Essex" release of the OpenStack cloud controller, has been in private beta testing since last September and went into public beta testing a month ago. HP has not said when it expects for its public cloud to be ready for production-grade applications, but it is continuing to add capabilities to its cloud in preparation of that day.

To that end, HP said today at Discover 2012 that it was working on something called Enterprise Cloud Services - Virtual Private Cloud, which seems to be a slightly different cloud and perhaps not based on OpenStack at all. You can't tell from the spec sheets (PDF) because HP, like all IT vendors, have let the marketeers take over and try to strip any technical information from any announcement.

It is possible that this virtual private cloud is based on HP's own CloudSystem iron, a special setup of its BladeSystem blade servers with integrated switching and external storage that runs a stack of orchestration software and a self-service portal that HP has been selling as a private cloud for the past several years under a number of different names. (El Reg has a call into HP for clarification on exactly what the relationship is between the HP public cloud and the enterprise virtual private cloud.) It is a good guess that this virtual private cloud is not running on OpenStack and is not related to the HP Cloud Services public cloud at all.

What we can tell you is that the Enterprise Cloud Services - Virtual Private Cloud comes in five T-shirt sizes, from small to extra large, and you can have HP manage it for a fee or do it yourself if you want to keep the admins busy. The virtual private cloud gives you multiple VLANs and a way to hook your internal network into the virtual private cloud through your firewalls to make them all look like a seamless network.

HP provides automated load balancing across the virtual servers in the cloud and does daily encrypted backup and off-site storage of data for the server operating systems and file systems with retention periods of 30, 60, or 90 days; backups of Oracle or SQL Server databases are retained for 15 or 30 days locally in the HP data center and shipped offsite for retention for 15 to 90 days. You can buy SAN storage for server nodes in blocks of 50GB, 100GB, 500GB, or 1TB blocks and you can add high availability clustering to the nodes as well.

HP is offering Microsoft Windows Server, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server instances on the virtual private clouds, but doesn't seem to think anyone might care what software release level it is offering or what the configurations are for this iron. Or prices for the different sized configurations, for that matter.

HP has also rolled out a special "low commitment" proof of concept version (PDF) of the Enterprise Cloud Services - Virtual Private Cloud, with terms of four to sixteen weeks. "This is not beta test or mock-up," says HP in the spec sheet, "it's a logically dedicated cloud infrastructure with the same features available to production clients."

On the proof of concept setup, a small bundle consists of one physical server with six small virtual machines with two cores and 4GB of memory each, while a medium bundle is two physical servers (each with two quad-core x86 processors and 64GB of memory) that are sliced up into six small VMs (again two cores and 4GB each) and four medium VMs (with two cores and 8GB of memory each). HP tosses in 50GB of storage and 1TB of backup capacity.

In addition to the virtual private cloud, HP announced that customers using the CloudSystem iron internally can now push work out to selected public clouds – what is often called cloud bursting. HP is supporting CloudSystem iron cloudbursting out to Amazon's EC2 cloud as well as to cloudy infrastructure operated by CenturyLink's Savvis unit.

Customers will be able to burst out to the HP Cloud Services public cloud as well, which of course is not based on blade servers or the CloudSystem Matrix software but rather on ProLiant rack servers running OpenStack. CloudSystem setups support VMware's ESXi and Microsoft's Hyper-V server virtualization hypervisors, while Amazon has its own interpretation of the open source Xen hypervisor and Savvis uses ESXi in its Symphony Virtual Private Data Center.

It is not clear how HP is making such cloud bursting work, but it should be a neat trick. The whitepaper on cloud bursting from CloudSystem is here (PDF), and it looks like the setup is not converting running VMs on the fly – as far as I know, no one can do that yet – but building separate gold images for each cloud and firing them up to offload work to as necessary. ®

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