HP wants to challenge Amazon for cloud developers

Systems giant HP (s hpq) announced a slew of new enterprise cloud products and services Tuesday, but it won’t be until later this summer that we’ll see just how big a role HP will play in the cloud computing space. Everyone knows HP can compete against IBM (s ibm), BMC (s bmc) and CA (s ca) selling cloud software to large companies, but can it compete against Amazon Web Services (s amzn) in wooing developers to the public cloud? It’s certainly going to try.
In March, HP CEO Leo Apotheker announced that HP will offer its own Infrastructure-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-Service and cloud storage services, some of the details of which were leaked last month. When I spoke today with Patrick Harr, HP’s VP of cloud solutions, he acknowledged those services are coming this summer and explained they’ll primarily target developers and will compete with AWS.
There will, of course, be an HP spin on the services, which is that they’ll utilize some of HP’s expertise in security and availability, and will be integrated with HP’s overall cloud portfolio. According to Harr, that could mean many things, including being available through HP’s hybrid-cloud management software as a resource option for low-priority applications. At Structure 2011, we’ll discuss a number of efforts to make public cloud computing and storage  more palatable for important applications and data, and HP sounds like it might help drive those use cases. But make no mistake, HP intends to offer a pure cloud play without the trappings of legacy infrastructure.
Harr acknowledges this is new ground for HP, but his experience tells him that HP can actually be competitive with developer-first cloud providers like AWS. For one, Harr, who previously served as CEO of cloud storage pioneer Nirvanix, thinks that scale will be a driving factor in determining which providers fare the best when providing commodity services such as simple compute and storage. And while he said that Nirvanix had to adopt an enterprise focus to differentiate because it couldn’t buy disk drives for less than Amazon could, that’s not the case with HP.
But winning developers will also require institutional buy-in from HP to prove that it’s not the stodgy, slow-moving vendor that many make it out to be. Harr said he questioned whether HP was ready for such a move when he came, but that progress has been fairly rapid in spreading the web-first principles to the other aspects of HP’s cloud strategy. Additionally, he said the cloud services business is operating much like its own business, which allows it the freedom to bring in the right people and pursue its own agenda without getting too caught up in legacy bureaucracy.
The highlights of today’s HP cloud news are CloudAgile — a service aimed at helping service providers build and offer cloud services — and CloudSystem: a preconfigured platform composed of converged infrastructure and cloud-management software. When used in unison, customers will be able to build and manage their application architectures via what appears to be a fairly intuitive drag-and-drop interface, and then scale out by adding external resources from HP’s CloudAgile program or from on-premise resource pools.
HP is touting choice throughout the process, as CloudSystem supports a variety of hypervisors, operating systems and applications, and early CloudAgile partners include Verizon (s vz), Savvis (s svvs) and OpSource.
As I said when Apotheker announced his grand cloud-provider plans, though, I’ll believe HP can compete in wooing developers when I see it. We know HP can deliver private clouds and advanced cloud management for large enterprises, but despite saying all the right things, it doesn’t have a reputation on which to hang its developer-friendly hat. If HP does pull it off, it’ll be like the Wild West with HP, AWS, Rackspace (s rax) and several other providers shooting it out for market dominance and, hopefully, making the cloud space even more interesting.
Image courtesy of Flickr user uwdigitalcollections.