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HP CEO Plans Major Focus on Cloud Computing

Underscoring that cloud computing will be integral to its strategy moving forward, Hewlett-Packard Co. plans to launch a public cloud service, company CEO Leo Apotheker said Monday at the company's annual analyst meeting.

The cloud, connectivity and software are integral to HP's strategy, Apotheker told analysts at the HP Summit 2011 event held in San Francisco. It was the first public appearance by Apotheker since he became CEO more than four months ago.

Observers have eagerly awaited Apotheker's remarks. Since taking over the top spot at HP after the abrupt departure of former CEO Mark Hurd, Apotheker has avoided public statements regarding the company's future strategy. Indeed, as expected, Apotheker's key message focused on his desire for HP to march forward into the cloud.

"We intend to be the platform for cloud and connectivity," Apotheker told analysts. "The opportunities in the cloud are extraordinary and we are positioned to lead with our portfolio and to lead with our customers who need a trusted partner to help navigate the journey ahead."

Apotheker talked of a world where end user devices are context-aware and the cloud becomes a point of convergence between those devices and the datacenter bringing together both personal and business information.

Still, he sees many customers embracing hybrid cloud infrastructures where data resides in datacenters but compute and storage and platform services come from a variety of sources, both internally and externally.

"Different customers will make this journey at different speeds. For many large enterprises, a hybrid environment, that combines traditional private and public cloud will be the pervading technology mode for a long, long time," he said.

HP executives suggested that the company has had this cloud strategy in place for some time. Indeed, the company in late January outlined its enterprise cloud strategy with the launch of its HP Enterprise Cloud Services-Compute and CloudSystem. With ECS Compute, enterprises will be able to provision their own servers through HP's outsourcing services, while CloudSystem is a premises-based turnkey cloud offering based on HP's BladeSystem Matrix hardware.

That said, Apotheker said HP is seeing increasing demand for a public cloud service. The service will initially appear in the form of a storage offering toward the end of this year or early next year, said chief technology officer Shane Robinson. That will be followed by a compute service, he said. Ultimately HP will offer platform-as-a-service.

"This is really driven by demand from our enterprise customers. Many of our enterprise customers are asking us to please provide this extension to what they're doing in their private cloud space, so they can seamlessly burst into a public cloud offering and deal with their peaks and loads and demands," Robinson said.

He said HP will build it using its intellectual property plus it will rely on partnerships. "We're not trying to do everything ourselves but we've got some really interesting things to bring to the party here," Robinson said. "We're going to enable an HP ecosystem of customers and partners and one of our key differentiators will be security and management controls. There's going to be a lot of focus on ease of use and we think there's some really interesting enterprise opportunities in the billing space and other normal business process support software applications so we can really engage with big enterprise customers."

HP also plans to launch a cloud marketplace that will be open to developers of consumer apps and an enterprise service catalog. The webOS platform will enable its connectivity strategy between devices and the cloud.

Todd Bradley, executive vice president of HP's Personal Systems Group, talked up an ambitious game plan for webOS, the operating system the company gained when it acquired Palm Inc. last year. In addition to powering a new crop of phones launched last month and a forthcoming tablet device, Bradley outlined plans for offering it with PCs and printers.

"The development teams across HP are working to bring the webOS experience to the Windows PCs," Bradley said, adding, "next year we will migrate tens of millions of Web connected printers into the ecosystem."

Bradley described webOS as the basis of HP's "connected ecosystem" for third-party and enterprise developers alike to build and share their applications through the marketplace. Synergy, the synchronization engine of webOS, is key in merging the information that resides on various devices and the cloud, Bradley said.

"We're open to both consumer and enterprise developers, content owners and service providers, and our catalog will support custom views of enterprise applications. We're making it as easy for these developers to participate in the growth of our ecosystem," Bradley said.

"With webOS, developers can now write an application once and deploy it across multiple applications, smart phones, TouchPads [and ultimately PCs]. They have unique integration opportunities that no other platform offers."

Lastly, Apthotheker talked up the pending acquisition of Vertica Systems, which will give it a big push into the business intelligence and analytics market. The company will offer the technology in a ready-made appliance offered in quarter, half and full rack configurations consisting of its BladeSystem Matrix hardware.

"Vertica brings big data analytics in real time, and the converged infrastructure delivers us a ready to go appliance with the shortest time to solution," Apotheker said. The company intends to offer the technology in the form of software and software-as-a-service, as well.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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