HP: Turnkey OpenStack Servers Quickly Fire Up Open-Source Private Clouds

This week, HP released Helion Rack, the first preconfigured server for running private OpenStack clouds that will give the company's channel a way to speed deployment of the powerful open-source cloud operating system.

With OpenStack loaded, configured and supported, Helion Rack is ready to install out of the box, and typically within days of delivery can be hosting workloads built atop OpenStack and the Cloud Foundry development platform. In contrast, most OpenStack vendors offer only reference architecture and best practices that often take more than a month to implement.

Ken Won, director of cloud solutions marketing at the Palo Alto, Calif.-headquartered tech giant, told CRN that other than the scalable compute and file or block storage nodes -- customized to user specifications by HP before delivery -- the rest of the system is stock.

[Related: Look Out Amazon: HP Unleashes First Commercial Helion OpenStack, Enterprise Cloud Storage]

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"We start with a configuration we've already built and tested and validated. That part of the architecture is pretty much set. What changes is how many VMs you want and how much storage you want," Won said.

HP expects Helion Rack to appeal to midsize and enterprise businesses looking to deploy their first OpenStack clouds, Won told CRN.

The product was conceived in response to both the demand for the open-source cloud operating system that is increasingly gobbling up market share, and the notorious difficulty of using it.

"We've been doing a lot in OpenStack and what we're finding is it's quite complicated actually to stand up a private cloud with OpenStack," Won said. The diverse projects within the OpenStack community make it difficult for novice users to choose the right architecture for integrating the various computing elements.

Some customers who tried to do it alone told HP that after downloading OpenStack it took them several months to stand up their clouds.

Helion Rack was designed with insight from the engineers who built HP's Helion public cloud, which is also powered by OpenStack. They helped specify drives, equipment and server architecture, according to Won.

"We went to talk to our public cloud guys and said, 'if you're going to build this, what would you use?' " Won told CRN.

HP is the largest contributor to the OpenStack project. The company released the latest version of its distribution last week along with its proprietary storage management software and other added capabilities.

HP does something else unique to the industry: It offers customers legal indemnification for any intellectual property infringement claims that might arise, which, according to Won, remains a concern in the business community when using an open-source technology.

To make Helion Rack attractive to developers, the servers also come integrated with the HP development platform, providing the databases, middleware and tools needed to start coding. The Platform-as-a-Service offering is built from the open-source Cloud Foundry development platform.

"What we see, all of our customers are looking at ways to make the developers much more productive, so they can roll apps out much faster than they ever have before," Won told CRN.

Helion Rack is a product that will drive business for solution providers and distributors, Won said, and HP is working to train its channel in the product.

"Once the customer gets their private cloud installed, there's a lot of integration opportunities, a lot of ongoing revenue opportunities, because once people start with their first private cloud, experience says they will scale up over time and buy additional equipment," Won told CRN.

Dasher, a solution provider headquartered in Campbell, Calif., is an HP partner helping to bring Helion Rack to the market.

The company grew its virtualization practice by selling HP Converged Systems with VMware turnkey solutions, said Dasher Executive Vice President Chris Saso.

"We believe turnkey OpenStack solutions from HP will address a shift we are seeing in the marketplace to open-standards based solutions," Saso told CRN via email.

He's seen a scenario play out over and over in the past couple years -- clients' coming to Dasher after attempting to install and configure an OpenStack proof-of-concept themselves. Those companies often spend more than a month trying to create a test environment without the proper resources while handling day-to-day business.

"It is a matter of finding experienced resources that know the OpenStack ecosystem and can deliver a working solution in a reasonable time frame," Saso told CRN.

OpenStack today represents what Linux did a decade ago, Saso said: a more efficient, cost-effective way to deliver IT services to internal businesses. Dasher sees a similar opportunity it did back then with Linux for dramatically increasing the value of its business by increasing the value it brings to clients.

"Dasher has invested in new partnerships and technical expertise over the last year to grow our OpenStack practice," Saso said.

"HP Helion Rack is a winning combination of mature technologies that was not possible until the ecosystem developed. With maturity comes the ability to effectively deliver IT solutions to our clients that provide quantifiable business value," Saso told CRN.