HP builds an OpenStack of its own and layers indemnification on top

Hewlett Packard(s hpq) really, really wants its enterprise customers to take the OpenStack plunge. It said late Tuesday that it will now offer its own OpenStack distribution and indemnify the use of that code, not only for its own direct customers, but for the customers of its service providers as well. And there is no monetary cap on that indemnification, said Bill Hilf, VP of HP’s converged cloud product and services group.

The idea is to reassure potential buyers that they can deploy OpenStack without risk even if they get sued over use of intellectual property in the OpenStack code. That level of comfort is key for corporations that may still be spooked over threats of lawsuits over their use of Linux a decade ago. Most of the major vendors added indemnification to Linux as a result.

As far as I can tell, this is the broadest protection from any OpenStack-affiliated vendor in that it covers not just companies who buy direct from HP but HP’s own service provider partners and their customers as well. Mirantis offers indemnification to direct users. It’s unclear if Red Hat’s Open Assurance program, which covers use of Red Hat Enterprise Linux and JBoss also covers OpenStack.  A company spokeswoman said Red Hat does indemnify customers using Red Hat OpenStack. Red Hat did not return calls for comment.

HP is also rebranding all its cloud products under the HP Helion label and, oh by the way, investing $1 billion in this effort. All of this is part of a massive enterprise cloud push that HP COO Bill Veghte will talk about at our upcoming Structure conference in June.

Meet HP Helion

As for the new HP Openstack distro — HP execs have said they were considering an HP-built distribution but they had not offered one till now.

“To date, we had the CloudOS we shipped with stuff like our Moonshot servers — sort of a firmware or enabling technology rather than a standard distribution. Now we’re building a full OpenStack,” Hilf said.

A free community version of Helion OpenStack — based on the Icehouse code — will be downloadable now. Then, at HP’s annual Discover conference in June, it will announce a second “full fee” version that will include HP enhancements to the management layer and full integration with HP hardware and software products, Hilf said.

All the announcements are part and parcel of a spate of cloud news to be covered in a web conference later Wednesday by HP CEO Meg Whitman, EVP and CTO Martin Fink and Hilf.

Martin Fink, EVP and CTO for Hewlett Packard

Martin Fink, EVP and CTO for Hewlett Packard

From HP: global OpenStack-based public cloud

HP is also fitting out a subset of its 80 data centers worldwide with OpenStack and “lighting them up for public cloud services over the next 18 months,” Hilf said. And, to check off one more box, HP is also building a full platform as a service based on Cloud Foundry, so customers will have that full development platform option as well as the more basic infrastructure.

Too many distributions?

Now armed with its own distribution, HP will face off against Red Hat(S rhat) in enterprise shops, as well as IBM and others in the OpenStack camp. Expect more news out about corporate adoption at the OpenStack Summit next week as well as guidance from the OpenStack Foundation about how it will enforce compatibility and interoperability between the various OpenStack distributions.

The whole point of OpenStack was to offer an open-source, standards-based cloud framework that would alleviate fear of vendor lock-in. If you run your cloud on Red Hat OpenStack or Rackspace(s rax) or Mirantis or Canonical OpenStack and aren’t satisfied, you should be able to move to another OpenStack-based cloud without too much angst. The fear is, that as the various vendors “innovate” on the core code, they will introduce incompatibilities, putting us right back to the vendor lock-in problem.

Dana Gardner, principal analyst of the Interarbor Group, said there is not a lot to worry about in the short term here. “None of these players want to differentiate based on code — they’re competing on services and support and integrating third party products,” he said.

The important game now is to reduce the risk of adoption so companies start implementing OpenStack, period, he said. The underlying anxiety is not so much that HP will lose customers to Rackspace or Red Hat or IBM, but that many more of those workloads will flow to the big Amazon public cloud.

This story was updated to reflect that Red Hat does offer indemnification of its OpenStack distribution.