Microsoft, HP link arms in $250 million cloud kumbaya

HP and Microsoft trotted out the big guns to trumpet a data center partnership, but analysts say the move is mostly feel-good and not feature-heavy.

HP and Microsoft have announced a $250 million partnership to develop integrated data center products that HP will offer as the HP Private Cloud. It will feature Microsoft's fledgling data center automation suite, which includes virtualization hypervisor Hyper-V, and dashboard tools designed to help Windows-based data centers shift towards private cloud computing environments.

HP is already providing server hardware for Windows Azure, Microsoft's Platform as a Service business, and the one hundred and fifteen billion-dollar firm said that HP Private Cloud products created under this new agreement will feature built-in integration with Azure services, giving Microsoft a captive audience for its new platform.

"This approach enables customers to integrate private or public cloud computing models as their business requires, and in the future, services built on Microsoft Windows Azure," said an HP spokesperson.

HP said its private cloud offering would be based around Microsoft's "Dynamic Data Center" initiative, and it will also come with a portfolio of services for the integrated HP server/Microsoft operating system bundles called Private Cloud Implementation Services.

The following new products will support the HP Private Cloud with Microsoft:

  • Microsoft Data Center Virtualization Strategy
  • Microsoft Data Center Discovery and Capacity Planning
  • Data Center Virtualization Design for Microsoft Environment
  • Data Center Virtualization Transition for Microsoft Environment
  • Data Center Virtualization Implementation for Microsoft

Private Cloud Implementation Services will be announced in 2010 to complement currently unannounced hardware and software bundles from the two IT giants. The firms are calling the move "infrastructure-to-application" and claim it represents the industry's most comprehensive technology stack integration to date, although no technical details of any kind have been released.

Analysts say that HP and Microsoft are staking out the private cloud as a territory needing major attention. The goal for both companies is to garner IT reinvestment dollars by touting performance benefits from tight integration between HP's hardware monitoring technology and Microsoft's operating systems.

Anything that [HP and Microsoft] do [together] is going to go under 'private cloud' from now on.

Drue Reeves, research director for Burton Group Data Center Strategies

Drue Reeves, research director for Burton Group Data Center Strategies, said that the partnership is a response to a growing threat from IT polyglot EMC, which owns VMware, partners with Cisco and is also gunning for next-generation data centers.

Reeves said that Microsoft and HP aren't making any major technology announcements because there aren't any. If anything, the two will collaborate on tying HP firmware and monitoring together with Windows Server, but the move is all about showing that the firms can do better than commodity products like servers and operating system licenses.

"They are doing a lot of integration work in their systems management tools," said Reeves, adding his belief that the bulk of the relatively small $250 million investment will go there.

Reeves also said that the partnership wasn't earthshaking, despite enthusiastic pitches from high-profile company executives such as HP CEO Mark Hurd and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. The companies had to walk a fine line to challenge EMC and not offend other key partners like Dell, Reeves said.

Mostly, said Reeves, the announcement is about staking out territory and making sure both firms don't get left in the cold.

"Anything that they do [together] is going to go under 'private cloud' from now on," he said.

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