Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/01/25/hp_cloudsystem_analysis/

HP blackens the skies with Cloud offerings

CloudSystem, CloudStart also punted as, well ... clouds

By Timothy Prickett Morgan

Posted in Cloud, 25th January 2011 16:30 GMT

Analysis As El Reg previously reported, HP this morning announced a private cloud stack of integrated servers, storage, switches, systems management tools, and virtualization hypervisors called CloudSystem. The CloudSystem setup is comprised of the BladeSystem Matrix blade servers, announced in April 2009, ironically on the same day that Oracle announced its $5.6bn takeover of Sun Microsystems after IBM declined a deal.

The BladeSystem Matrix brought together HP's ProLiant Xeon-based blade servers and an integrated set of management and provisioning tools (derived from its Insight system administration and Opsware system provisioning and patching tools) called the Matrix Operating Environment. The Matrix software also included application deployment templates that turned the Matrix boxes into a "push button data center" for deploying applications. The Matrix gear is interesting and useful, and was primarily used to provision software on bare-metal servers to support n-tier applications (database, application, and Web tiers, usually).

New to the server market, Cisco Systems has no installed base of incompatible iron to worry about, and a clean slate on which it can design cloudy infrastructure that it peddles in conjunction with EMC and VMware through the Acadia partnership announced in November 2009. Not so for Oracle, IBM, and Hewlett-Packard, which are all struggling with how to configure something akin to Acadia's Vblocks without alienating portions of their customer bases.

In November 2009, Cisco, EMC, and VMware announced their Acadia partnership in November 2009, which has set up a free-standing company to integrate and support virtualized server stacks called Vblocks. There were originally three different references architectures being certified by the Acadia Three, which is now known as the Virtual Computing Environment Company, or VCE for short. But as El Reg reported last week, VCE is no longer just doing certification of reference architectures on the Vblocks, but actually manufacturing and supporting them. (Cisco, EMC, and VMware do all the sales of Vblocks, however.)

HP's response the day after the Vblocks were announced that November was to allow for Itanium-based Integrity blade servers to be slid into the chassis next to Xeon blades, thereby enabling HP-UX, OpenVMS, and NonStop workloads to be controlled by the Matrix software as well as Windows and Linux running on the ProLiant blades. HP was not inclined at the time to create a Matrix uber-system out of ProLiant or Integrity rack servers, and it renamed the secret software sauce on the Matrix box Infrastructure Operating Environment, which included the Insight Dynamics, Insight Control, and Business Technology Optimization tools woven together.

Last August, HP punted a new product called CloudStart, which was a private cloud based on the Matrix iron and a new tool called Cloud Service Automation, which leveraged the Matrix management tools but added in a self-service portal, resource metering, chargeback, and reporting features that virtualized systems require to make sure the right people get billed for the capacity they use.

The CloudStart appliances were based on ProLiant blades and support VMware's vSphere and Microsoft's Hyper-V hypervisors. A starter CloudStart with eight blade servers, an EVA storage array, and all the goodies cost around $190,000; the system could expand to around 1,000 server nodes, which is a pretty big cloud. CloudStarts were available in Asia/Pacific first, and were supposed to be expanded to the rest of the globe last December and eventually extended to support Integrity blades and HP's own Integrity VMs for virtualizing HP-UX, Windows, and Linux on Itanium-based blades.

With the CloudSystem launched today, HP takes BladeSystem Matrix hardware and layers on a slightly different stack of software called Cloud Service Automation Suite. According to Matt Zanner, vice president of cloud infrastructure solutions at HP's mammoth Enterprise Business group, which makes and sells systems and services to IT shops, the CSA tool stack is used to manage, provision, and optimize clouds, and that means managing hypervisors and their virtual servers in addition to bare-metal machines and their operating systems and applications.

CloudStart and CloudSystem: what's the difference?

The CSA tools are comprised of new code hammered out by HP engineers and existing code culled from the Insight, Opsware, and Mercury lines, including Operations Orchestration, SiteScope, Server Automation, Cloud Service Portal, and Service Gateway.

While the CloudSystem requires the CSA tools to do cloudy infrastructure, the CSA tools themselves can burst out to other platforms, including HP's own rack and tower ProLiant and Integrity servers and even servers made by other vendors if need be. HP is also working so CloudSystem setups can integrate with Amazon's EC2 compute clouds and HP's new Cloud

In case you are wondering, the difference between CloudStart and CloudSystem seems to be that CloudStart recommends the use of the CSA tools, while the CloudSystem requires it. It also looks like CloudStart is a services stack with some Matrix hardware being pushed by HP Technology Services and CloudSystem is a Matrix hardware and software bundle with a smattering of services being pushed by HP's Enterprise Servers, Storage, and Networking group.

Another big change is that the CloudSystem uses 3Par storage instead of EVA storage, which is an upgrade considering the capabilities of 3Par arrays in terms of thin provisioning and storage virtualization, and can include HP's TippingPoint security appliances as well.

In neither case has HP done the obvious thing, which the VCE partnership has done with Vblocks and which IBM has done with its CloudBurst appliances, announced last October. That is to provide something akin to a spec sheet for several configurations that details all the pieces and options and then put a price on it. HP says it is not shipping the CloudSystem and its CSA tools until March, but that's not really an excuse for not knowing what you are going to sell and how much it is going to cost.

Not to make this any more confusing, but HP Enterprise Services also announced today something called the HP Enterprise Cloud Services-Compute utility, which is a private cloud that HP hosts in its own data centers on behalf of customers. The announcement implies that the ESC-C utility is based on the new CloudSystem setup, but Zanner said that initially the HP compute utility will use existing iron in HP's 36 global data centers. Over time, the service will be deployed on the CloudSystem combination of Matrix hardware and CSA management tools.

If you can keep track of all this bundling, naming, and renaming, then you probably have a promising career as an HP sales rep. HP might have simplified the IT infrastructure with each successive BladeSystem Matrix refinement, but the company has made keeping track of what is what inside the stacks it sells far too complex.

This is also a problem at IBM, which has PureScale clusters for database clustering for online transaction processing, Smart Analytic Systems for data warehousing and business analytics, and CloudBursts for virtualized server infrastructure - often based on nearly the same iron.

Even Oracle, which had a perfectly good brand in Exadata for its clusters, now has SuperClusters when it is a Sparc-based machine and Exalogic Elastic Clouds when running application servers. Vendors are getting lost in their own cloudy marketing. ®