HP: Dell, IBM New Cloud Strategies Too Late, Lack Openness

HP plans to be a major player in the emerging cloud tug-of-war that has tech powerhouses jockeying for position in this growing, and often cut-throat, market.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based giant is drawing a line in the sand, calling out two of its biggest competitors -- Dell and IBM -- both of which recently sharpened their cloud strategies to make a major cloud push.

In an interview with CRN, Patrick Harr, HP's vice president of global cloud strategy and solutions, said Dell and IBM are late to the cloud party and said that HP's cloud openness, and Dell's and IBM's lack thereof, will sway the market in HP's favor going forward. Harr said HP is confident it will come out on top and that it will have "the lion's share" of the cloud computing market.

"We're in it to win it," he said. "We are a leader in this space right now."

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Harr's and HP's bold comments come as IBM and Dell each made massive cloud computing announcements this month.

IBM last week unveiled its IBM SmartCloud cloud service delivery platform of hardware, software and services for deploying private, public and hybrid cloud systems. The move is expected to put IBM into competition with other cloud stalwarts like Rackspace and Amazon Web Services, among others, with its single platform for users to provision with middleware and applications for running workloads in the cloud across multiple systems or hypervisors.

IBM's SmartCloud Enterprise and Enterprise + plays tie IBM cloud services into a single ecosystem. IBM's renewed cloud push has the tech titan predicting it will generate $7 billion in cloud revenue by 2015. IBM has already invested more than $3 billion in cloud acquisitions, launched five cloud data centers and built 11 IBM cloud development labs.

For its part, Dell also put its cloud stake in the ground this week, saying that it plans invest $1 billion in cloud computing and virtualization this year with massive data center expansion and a deep focus on sales training and expertise. That strong cloud statement comes after Dell has invested nearly $2 billion in cloud-focused acquisitions to boost its cloud profile.

Round Rock, Texas-based Dell plans to build 10 next-generation data centers; to open 22 Global Solution Centers; and launch a host of new cloud solutions around data center virtualization, e-mail and file archiving and desktop virtualization in its bid to become a cloud top dog.

Dell also unveiled vStart, a preassembled software and hardware virtualization play that comprises PowerEdge servers, EqualLogic storage and PowerConnect switches and can run up to 200 virtual machines.

Dell also inked a new three-year agreement with Microsoft that will draw tighter connection between Dell's Virtual Integrated System and Advanced Infrastructure Manager products and Microsoft System Center.

And Dell targeted desktop virtualization with its own Desktop Virtualization Solutions that combine packaged services with hardware and software. Lastly, Dell's new E-mail and File Archive solution tackles management headaches that stem from massive data stores and aim to optimize storage environments.

HP: We're Delivering Cloud Now

As Dell and IBM dive headfirst into the market, Harr said HP has already cemented itself into the cloud computing space. Harr highlighted sets of products and services that HP unveiled in January and are available now, while Dell's and IBM's new cloud products await release.

HP's currently available cloud offerings include its CloudSystem turnkey enterprise private cloud; its hybrid Cloud Service Automation offering; and its Cloud Maps service that optimizes applications for the cloud. HP also offers its Enterprise Cloud Services for Compute, which comprises server, storage, network and security and bundles them to be consumed as a service.

"We're delivering on the cloud now, and not just future state, like these other announcements are," Harr said.

Harr said HPs goal is to help customers transform their environments to leverage the cloud, but stepping back the company takes a realistic approach that "not all apps belong in the cloud" he said. Still, HP sees hybrid cloud being the model going forward.

"We do actually believe the future is hybrid," Harr said. "It's not a one-size fits all."

Following up on HP's big cloud push in January, its cloud plans continued to take shape less than a month ago when new HP CEO Leo Apotheker broke his and HP's silence and shared HP's cloud vision. HP vowed to stage a three-pronged cloud assault. First, the company plans to help customers transition to the cloud and build cloud infrastructures; it is working on a cloud platform; and is building an open cloud marketplace and prepping a cloud ecosystem.

Apotheker made the bold proclamation that HP will be the cloud leader, and its competitors will fall short.

"All of us need a trusted partner to navigate this new world which we see is here...," Apotheker said at the time. "Who but HP could deliver this leadership?"

Harr added: "We will be a very strong public cloud provider."

With HP's upcoming full public cloud service provider play, an enterprise-focused pay-as-you-go cloud; a PaaS offering the help developers build new cloud services; and the upcoming open cloud market place where third parties deliver cloud services, Harr said HP differentiates itself from its rivals with a story of openness.

"We want to help resellers add the V [value] back into VAR," he said, noting that HP's open cloud plans promote the additional of services and white label capabilities through the upcoming open cloud marketplace. "We want to be very cooperatively working with our partners."

Harr said that HP's openness is a major difference in the cloud battle with IBM and Dell. For example, he said, IBM is offering a single stack, where components can't be intermixed, while HP promotes best of breed cloud systems.

Next: Dell, IBM Speak Out On Cloud Strategies

IBM, however, disputed HP's claims, calling itself open and saying that it is HP, not IBM, that was late getting to the cloud computing table, as this year is the first time HP has spoken out about its cloud plans.

"No vendor has more of a commitment and involvement in driving open standards and interoperability than IBM," an IBM spokesperson said. "We build our cloud technology on open architectures so we can connect between various systems as we always have. We also just announced the cloud council to help drive open cloud further yet."

IBM said cloud computing is a key growth initiative for the company, and said it has been deep in the cloud long before HP.

"While HP is getting its feet wet, IBM began its cloud initiative nearly five years ago, establishing Blue Cloud labs around the world to seek out first-of-a-kind projects and accelerate proof of concepts with enterprise clients, governments and universities," the spokesperson said.

Dell, too, said it has been forging a path in the cloud since last year and is focusing on an open ecosystem.

"Dell's philosophy of open is designing our enterprise solutions so they can work with any other product from another vendor," tell told CRN in an e-mailed statement. Later, Dell added, "In terms of our 'move' into the cloud, Dell has been active in the cloud market for quite some time, offering open, capable and affordable solutions across hardware and services… In addition, Dell Services already deploys cloud capabilities for customers."

Harr added that HP is taking a different approach to the cloud by fostering an environment that cuts down on competition with partners. Other cloud providers, he said, are selling to service providers, which can create competition with solution providers. That causes partners to question the competitive landscape.

"Are you going to compete with me or try while trying to sell me stuff?" Harr said is a major question on partner minds.

So far, Cloud VARs have praised HP's leap into the cloud, but said the company faces a host of hurdles and is risking cannibalizing its hardware and software bread and butter in favor of a robust cloud strategy that doesn't rely on big iron or licensing.

And HP, Dell and IBM aren't the only big boys fighting for pole position on the cloud track. Cisco has recently outlined its full-on cloud strategy, as others like Oracle, SAP and more seek to flex their cloud muscles.

"Clearly, this is a very large market it's not going to be dominated by one vendor," Harr said. "The cloud game is like a nine-inning baseball game and we're in the first inning and there are two outs."