Last week I was invited as a guest blogger at HP Tech Day in Sydney, an event designed to communicate to the new media and create engaging conversations around HPs latest (and possibly riskiest) foray in technology – the cloud.
One of the difficult things I find about attending any event run by an IT vendor is that the information is often too technical and irrelevant to most people, or too salesy, leaving out key facts or relevant details in place of slogans and branding. HP recognised this and created the event to try and communicate their launch of HPs converged cloud. It wasn’t exactly free of commercialism but the ability to interact with executives and technology experts made it a valuable exercise none the less. in short, HP are launching their own Public Cloud and my aim in this article is to boil down what that means for you as a business and how you might leverage this technology in the future.
First – who is HP up against?
For the uninitiated, the public cloud comes in many forms, but there is arguably only 2 significant players at present: Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure. These company’s offer the cloud globally in what is known as Platform as a Service and it’s quite an evolution in technology compared to the traditional way that software is delivered to our businesses. In the past, software would be designed to be installed on your PC, or Mac or on Server. Today, these new Platforms mean software is delivered via the web, and built to scale globally.
HP aim to be a 3rd player in the market by also offering a cloud platform. Many in the industry say there is not much room for any additional players in this market beyond HP. Think of this like the competition between Apple’s iPhone, Microsoft’s Windows Phone and Google’s Android software. Like the smartphone market, there is a fierce battle between vendors to be the predominant Public Cloud platform.
Up until recently, many of my cloud related articles have focused on smaller iterations of cloud such as Hybrid and Private which are suited to a lot of company’s however these types of cloud solutions are often geographically limited. Public Cloud is global and works on what we call an ‘elastic model’ which is based on usage such as time, data, bandwidth and capacity. The elasticity means company’s only pay for what they use, and can scale during peak periods. Say your company has regular website traffic, but once a year you run an event that requires millions of hits to your website – the public cloud can support that.
The innovation in public cloud is also ones ability to rapidly launch a new website or application with global capacity without the upfront capex. Historically, the cost of IT hardware would limit a startup or small business ability to test and launch a new concept. Let’s take Instagram for example, which this week sold to Facebook for $1bn. Instagram has a global customer base and was highly available in every country in the world. I’ll bet they never had to buy and maintain their own servers but rather with public cloud computing they could invest their capital into software developers and marketing – years ago this simply wouldn’t be possible.
There are thousands of of startups just like Instagram that have leveraged services like Amazon Web or Azure to innovate rapidly.
Once you boil the cloud down into bits and bytes, it’s all made possible by advanced computer hardware such as servers and networking equipment and it wouldn’t surprise many to know that HP manufacturer most of the technology found in a cloud data centre. This, in my view may give HP a competitive advantage in their push into the cloud. Unlike Microsoft who is purely a software company, and Amazon, an online technology company – HP continues to innovate and develop the physical technology that these company’s actually depend on. Now HP believes it also has the software that can deliver elastic cloud computing services to compete in this space.
I have some reservations about this
I’ve worked with HP hardware for many years and I’m definitely a raving fan - the hardware is resilient and I’ll back their servers and storage any day. On the other hand, at a small to medium business level I’ve seen very few reasons to adopt HP software either due to its lack of practical use in a smaller IT environment, or its lack of usability when other vendors have made competing products more intuitive. . In the cloud space it will be interesting to see if HP can exceed Microsoft or Amazons capability so my mind is not made up on this just yet.
More on competitive advantage
And, while I love the idea of Public Cloud there are simply too many limitations in the Australian market. Firstly, the Internet here is rubbish. Compared to Europe and North America we are in the dark ages. Most of us do not have the type of connectivity needed to run our businesses purely from a public cloud platform and we won’t until the National Broadband Network is fully deployed. Secondly, there are a number of privacy laws that exist in Australia that mean many Australian company’s are not legally allowed to put customer data in a public cloud. Neither HP, Microsoft or Amazon intend on rolling out local data centres any time soon and this limits adoption of a public cloud scenario.
This is where it gets interesting, HP have a significant set of capabilities compared to the others. Firstly, they have a strong commitment to on premise or private cloud infrastructure – they see their products existing in harmony regardless of whether it’s in your office, your private data centre or their cloud and they refer to this as convergence. They also believe this convergence will work seamlessly with competitors. Amazon will never have this and Microsoft do try but don’t have the hardware edge. There is also HPs strong push into the networking space and their aggressive competition with Cisco that will see more integration regardless of whether you choose a single cloud, or a combination of cloud, and non-cloud environment.
Will HP win?
It’s hard to say, but HPs commitment to open standards may ultimately lay the framework for success, or at least carve out a niche for specific industries. Amazon and Microsoft have a massive head start, however HP have the nuts and bolts and interoperability to provide businesses with confidence to back them versus someone else. They also have the legacy of infrastructure in millions of their customers businesses worldwide so if they support their partners then these customers are likely to adopt HP rather than their competitors.
On the other hand, HP haven’t dominated in software in the past – and the recently failed HP Slate and WebOS proved that they couldn’t spark enough interest in the development community to compete against Apple and Google. Cloud, to a larger extent, is all about leading edge software and without a community of committed developers supporting HP, they will struggle to get a leg up.
Watch this space a little longer. On gut instinct I’d say the Australian limitations mentioned above (which apply to all vendors) make me more inclined to start with HPs cloud over the others. Over the coming weeks I’ll get my hands on a demo and I’ll be happy to share more with you once I see the full set of features with a view to how our own clients can make use of their offering.
Got any questions? Let me know and I’ll do my best to interpret the vendor speak for you