HP, Yahoo and Intel Create Compute Cloud

Updated at the bottom: At long last, Hewlett-Packard is stepping up with an answer to cloud computing by inking a partnership with two other big technology vendors and three universities to create a cloud computing testbed. Through its R&D unit, HP Labs, the computing giant had has teamed up with Intel, Yahoo, the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany.

The cloud will comprise six physical locations where mostly HP servers containing between 1,000 and 4,000 mostly Intel cores will run Apache Hadoop. The goal of the project is to give cloud access to academics and research institutions trying to build out services and work within the clouds. HP also hopes to use the testbed project to develop tools and software to push its Everything-as-a-Service idea. Researchers will be able to access the cloud through a proposal process later this year.

Such efforts parallel Google’s attmepts to create clouds for university students seeking to understand how their software might perform in a cloud environment. As Chris Bisciglia, a senior software engineer with Google, pointed out to me in June, most universities don’t have the resources to help a young programmer see if their application can work across hundreds of servers and achieve “Internet scale,” but it’s an important criteria for today’s developers.

Today’s announcement brings HP one step closer to offering a cloud service of its own rather than merely selling boxes to cloud providers — something that’s becoming more apparent after its deal for EDS and the launch of it’s new Scalability Computing Initiative in May. We’ll update the story with more information about testbed’s limits and what it means for other industry players later this morning.

Update: After chatting with the powers that be at all three companies, it’s clear that this cloud has two goals. The first is to figure out what people need to learn about building applications for the cloud and to tie such clouds together, and the second is to crush Google when it comes to building a cloud for researchers to play around with.

Prith Banerjee, SVP of research at HP and director of HP Labs, points out that the Yahooptel (thanks, Alistair) cloud is open all the way down to the hardware, which will allow researchers to use any programming language, operating system or other software to build applications at various layers of the cloud computing stack.

“We want, unlike other partnerships including Google and IBM’s where the lower-level stacks are not provided in a open manner to the world, open access to all levels of the hardware,” Banerjee said. “The Google approach is a proprietary way of building the hardware, and essentially all you see is the software layer at the top.”

For all of the openness, not everything built on the cloud testbed will be open sourced. The intellectual property of some applications and research could be owned and kept by the academics using the system or the companies building it. Prabhakar Raghavan, head of Yahoo research, which has played an instrumental role in Hadoop, said the details of IP ownership are still being worked out.

Much like the question of IP ownership is still in flux, the way this cloud will function across the six locations is still up in the air. As Banerjee points out, there is still too much they don’t know about allocating resources efficiently, security and linking disparate databases together in a cloud. But if this cloud gets the open-source community some useful code, Intel some chip sales, Yahoo a way to scale applications easily across its infrastructure and HP some tools to make money off of cloud software and hardware, then that’s good, too.