For better or worse, HP has finally found its cloud religion

In cloud computing, there is a cult of Amazon Web Services that’s very large and growing, but it’s not necessarily for everyone. That’s because the religion of cloud computing is very much like any other religion: There are some core tenets everyone believes — in this case, let’s say on-demand provisioning, resilience and the existence of virtual machines — but that core is surrounded by different sects and congregations. They all practice their beliefs in those core tenets, as well as some of their own design, in different ways.

HP company is now a devout member of the enterprise cloud faith. Its gospel preaches, among other things, that users that don’t buy into an all virtual-environment will still want physical gear, highly regulated companies will demand at least hybrid environments, and that large enterprises with lots of legacy software (and/or) technical debt will still expect a slow transition and lots of handholding. Increasingly, it also preaches OpenStack.

HP Vice President of Product Marketing and Cloud Evangelist Margaret Dawson came on the Structure Show this week to explain how HP interprets the enterprise cloud scripture. ┬áHere are some highlights from Dawson’s appearance but, as usual, you’ll want to listen to the whole show to get the whole picture (download options below).

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On all the competing interests in the OpenStack community

“Any open source movement, and OpenStack would be no exception, is always very much a coopetition type of reality,” Dawson said. “… We’re always gonna have that natural collaboration and friction when it comes to the fact that at the end of the day we’re all here to make money and make our customers happy.”

HP is very involved with the OpenStack community on all levels, she elaborated, but out in the market everyone needs their own special sauce to distinguish themselves. She wouldn’t comment on the likelihood of HP releasing its Cloud OS management layer as essentially a separate OpenStack distribution, but she did acknowledge that customers want to use it even outside their HP services.

“It’s simplifying some things that are still a little bit complex from an OpenStack perspective,” Dawson noted.

On what the cloud means for HP’s server business

“I used to speak at some conferences about what I jokingly said: ‘Behind every cloud is a data center in disguise,'” Dawson said. “Because we really do forget about the huge amount of infrastructure that is going into cloud computing worldwide.”

She noted the types of data centers and infrastructure that companies such as Facebook and Google are building, and the huge scale at which they’re doing it. But, she added, companies like HP still have to innovate if they expect to sell servers into these next-generation data centers. She thinks HP’s Atom-based Moonshot servers show it still has a few good ideas up its sleeve.

Margaret Dawson Hewlett Packard Structure:Europe 2013

Margaret Dawson at Structure: Europe 2013.

On the the significance of big OpenStack users like PayPal

“At the end of the day, what the customer wants is everything to work together. Unfortunately, that’s still Narnia and fairy dust,” Dawson said. “… There’s still no magic dust that allows us to have everything across our legacy [and] new infrastructure just work hand in hand and move data back and forth.”

By doing things like rebuilding AWS-based tools to work on OpenStack, she thinks users like PayPal can show the community can make innovation on other platforms work for OpenStack. They could even help tie together some of these disparate systems.

On whether HP should try to compete with AWS for developers

“We have thousands of [individual developers] on our cloud today,” Dawson said. “… I think that will always play a role, but when we think about our core cloud strategy and customer, it’s absolutely the enterprise.”

That wasn’t always the case for HP, but it seems to have seen the light. Its customers want consultation, guidance and a slow transition from old to new. Even within the OpenStack community, Dawson noted, “Everybody is finding a way to compete effectively, to grow their business, to provide their customers what they want. And not everyone is going after that same customer base.”

On how many OpenStack companies the market can support

“I think there’ll be consolidation, I’m sure we’ll see continued movement in terms of companies working together or being acquired – that’s just natural market movement in the technology development,” Dawson said. “We always see this natural cadence or flow of how things consolidate or de-centralize, and I’m sure we’ll see the same thing with OpenStack.”

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Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock user lurii; Margaret Dawson photo by Anna Gordon/GigaOM.