HP Helion looks for enterprise love with OpenStack

HP unveiled Helion, which marks a major commitment to cloud and a much-needed step toward its competition.

HP has made its biggest push yet into cloud computing, but for IT pros to take it seriously, it still has a long way to go.

HP unveiled a suite of services under an umbrella portfolio called HP Helion, which will allow enterprises to operate in a hybrid environment.

It's a big, bold step and it shows HP is finally comfortable with OpenStack and feeling it's time for it to go mainstream.

Dana Gardner, analyst, Interarbor Solutions

The suite goes a long way to clarify HP's message to customers. It's a sign the company is finally getting a coordinated focus on cloud computing, rather than a disjointed and sometimes contradictory effort from different groups in the company, said David Cearley, an analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based research firm Gartner Inc.

"We're optimistic given what we've seen, but the proof will be in what they actually deliver and how well people are able to implement it," Cearley said.

HP Helion folds in existing HP cloud offerings with new open source products, on which the company is betting its future. HP plans to invest $1 billion in OpenStack over the next two years, and will offer free and commercial versions of its infrastructure as a service, as well as a platform as a service application platform based on the Cloud Foundry model.

The various models available in HP Helion allow customers to build their own private cloud or purchase the OpenStack model, Cearley said.

 Enterprises are clamoring for an all-in-one service like this to provide security and flexibility, according to Mike Strohl, CEO of Entisys, a systems integrator in Concord, Calif.

"When you start looking at creating a solution that crosses those platforms [and] allows you to integrate all that, you can't do it if you're only in one or two of those silos," Strohl said.

And while he is optimistic about the prospects of Helion, Strohl acknowledges HP has struggled to get products to market in recent years. The company has made progress, but there is still work to do to pull away from its image as a legacy infrastructure provider, he added.

One of the more well-received aspects of Helion is the uncapped indemnification HP will offer its OpenStack users. This is akin to legal protections for Linux that allowed open source to take off, said Dana Gardner, an analyst at Interarbor Solutions in Gilford, N.H.

"It's a big, bold step and it shows HP is finally comfortable with OpenStack and feeling it's time for it to go mainstream," Gardner said.

HP's OpenStack push

Though Amazon Web Services dominates the public cloud market, HP's most direct competition for Helion is likely IBM and its Blue Mix offerings. IBM is also a member of the Cloud Foundry board and has lofty open source goals.

HP plans to offer OpenStack services in 20 data centers worldwide over the next 18 months, but it will have to do more, said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, in Hayward, Calif.

 "If [HP] really wants to step up its game to take on IBM directly, it's going to take some added effort and investment," King said.

The free version of HP Helion OpenStack Community became available for download and use this week, with capacity limits of 30 nodes. Optional support and indemnification is available at $750 per node. Enhanced commercial versions will be available later this year, with further details expected at the HP Discover 2014 conference in June.

HP hasn't discussed its pricing structure for the commercial models for enterprises.

Trevor Jones is the news writer for SearchCloudComputing. You can reach him at tjones@techtarget.com.

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