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Is HP hiding cloud software in its labs?

SAN FRANCISCO –– Hewlett-Packard CEO Leo Apotheker outlined his vision for the company today and the message was loud and clear, it’s all about the cloud. But as always at these big events, the CEO was long on vision, short on detail.

Central to his plans is a Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering that will compete with Microsoft Azure, VMware’s Springsource cloud initiatives and with and Heroku, among many other PaaS providers.

“If you want to be in the cloud business you have to cover all of the areas, Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service and I can’t emphasis enough on Platform as a Service,” Apotheker told press and analysts gathered here today. However he glossed over all the software work that has to be done to build a Platform as a Service.

“The software for our cloud platform will be based on a certain number of technologies, but let’s not get into that right now,” Apotheker said. He added that HP will be launching pieces of this platform in 2011 and 2012 and said that it will come from HP Labs, as well as acquisitions and partners.

He stressed that HP wants a lot more developers working with it to build a higher value software business. But he quickly added that the company’s existing partners, namely Microsoft, will continue to be important partners.

Last July HP announced a partnership with Microsoft in which it would bundle Microsoft’s Azure cloud software as an appliance. However it doesn’t sound like Azure will be the basis of HP’s Platform as a Service offering in the future.

There were lots of questions on how HP plans to catch Amazon Web Services, now a juggernaut in cloud infrastructure services. Some analysts predict that if AWS continues at its current growth rate it will be a $10 billion business by 2016.

“How we will catch up is pretty damn simple,” Apotheker quipped. “We have 25,000 enterprise sales people … and why will our customers buy from us, they want SLAs, they want security, they want a capability that is scalable worldwide, there aren’t many companies that can provide that,” he said.

Yahoo and others have backed away from building out more datacenters due to the capital intensity of the business. Apotheker claimed HP has already made the investment required to offer global cloud services. “From a big investment point of view, quite a lot of it is already there,” he said.

He announced that the company will launch an Open Cloud Marketplace, or app store, that will run on the HP cloud and support software from many different companies.

“In this open environment there will be HP software, but there will also be a lot of non-HP software … at the end of the day we can’t create all of this innovation by ourselves,” he said.

Analytics and security capabilities will be central to HP’s plans overall.

“Security is a huge opportunity here, it is probably the most important application anyone can create in this connected world anyway, so you will see us doing much more in the security side,” he said.
Apotheker took a shot at Symantec, claiming the “point solution providers are having a challenge, not because of us, but because of what they provide.” He said it is easy for smart people to work around “this or that” point product. “Whatever barrier you put at a given point, people will just find another way in.”

He said it is more important to find a solution to secure the entire stack, although he offered few details on how HP might tackle this.

Apotheker resigned as CEO of SAP amid falling sales and a price increase that angered customers. He was retired when HP called him to take over the reins from Mark Hurd.

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