Beware of Amazon’s “legacy” cloud, says HP’s cloud guru

In an interesting — if self-serving twist — Hewlett-Packard’s(s hpq) top cloud guy says enterprises should consider alternatives to Amazon’s(s amzn) old-school cloud.

Some might say that’s the pot calling the kettle black; HP is a 74-year-old tech company and Amazon Web Services has been around since — what — 2007? On the other hand, HP is banking big on new, but fast maturing OpenStack technology — it uses both SUSE and Ubuntu Linux in parts of is cloud infrastructure but is also working on its own distribution which is already running an HP Cloud sandbox, Saar Gillai, SVP of converged cloud at HP, said in an interview Tuesday morning.

The sandbox, available since June, has drawn a lot of interest from Fortune 50 and Fortune 100 customers who want to play with it, he said. He’s banking that this interest will morph into cloud business down the road.

Update: OpenStack cloud technology is gaining ground  — with new orchestration and management capabilities coming online. On the other hand, Gillai said,  “yes, there are certain players in this market for 8 or 9 years with legacy stuff that’s not that new.” He did not mention AWS by name, but the context was clear: Amazon is the incumbent player here and HP is the new cloud on the block, was the message, albeit a new cloud with a lot of existing enterprise customer relationships.

Saar Gillai, Hewlett-Packard senior VP of converged cloud speaking at OpenStack Summit 2013

What’s old is new and new is old

HP is hoping that the open-source fervor that propelled Linux to the top of the heap in enterprise and mobile operating systems will similarly motivate enterprise customers to take the OpenStack cloud plunge — with full HP services and support attached, of course.

Given the sheer number of contributors to OpenStack — HP claims the fourth most contributions to the latest Havana release — its clear that the technology has piqued interest among developers and their employers. But since it launched four years ago, it’s still new in the game and businesses weighing a move into cloud need to know that moving legacy stuff to any cloud isn’t a day at the beach. HP, he said, will help assess those difficulties up front and, if needed, help with the move.

AWS is clearly the top public cloud contender by far and Gillai conceded that it offers huge benefits, especially to startups that want to minimize IT expenses and add and delete resources easily.

“Our challenge is, if you look at [Amazon’s] attractiveness besides the capex vs. opex stuff which we can solve, it is the frictionlessness (service) AWS provides. How do we do that in the private cloud?” Gillai said. It’s clear he thinks that once that puzzle is solved, all bets are off.

OpenStack projects like TripleO are going a long way to ease the setup and implementation of OpenStack clouds, he said.

HP, like all the non-AWS cloud players, is laying on the hybrid cloud message thick. They say that model will let business customers keep sensitive data and apps under their control in private clouds but use public cloud as needed for workload spikes or non-sensitive data and applications. Update: As if on cue, Gartner(s it) came out Tuesday with projections that by the end of 2017 nearly half of all enterprise companies will have hybrid cloud deployed compared to just 1 to 2 percent now, according to analyst Thomas Bittman.

Now, to think that AWS is unaware of businesses’ desire for private and hybrid options would be naive. The fact that it’s fighting so hard to keep the CIA private cloud contract is one indication of how important that is to the company. If AWS can satisfy CIA requirements, AWS might get beyond its public-cloud-only roots. Amazon also has its cordoned-off GovCloud option and we hear it’s duplicating that model around the world in an attempt to ease concerns over data privacy and sovereignty.

On the other hand …

And while AWS may be 8 years old, it keeps churning out more and higher-level services at a rate that most of its own biggest users find hard to track.

Still, HP has a point that for some workloads and for some companies, AWS will not be the best and only cloud option going forward. especially if companies like HP, Red Hat(s rhat), and IBM(s ibm) can offer OpenStack options that are at least somewhat price competitive and offer enterprise-class service level agreements and support.

Note: This story was updated at 10:10 a.m. PDT with Gartner projections on hybrid cloud deployment traction and again at 11:20 a.m. PDT with additional Gillai comments.