HP offers its view of cloud's future

A global elite of cloud providers will emerge, predicts HP cloud exec

Hewlett-Packard says cloud computing's Big Bang, which started with the launch of Google Apps and Amazon EC2, is coming to an end and the cloud ecosystem of the future is taking shape.

Instead of turning into an expanding universe of hundreds of diffuse clouds, the cloud market will eventually settle down and we'll have 10 to 20 global cloud providers whose offerings can be counted on to be interoperable and meet certain quality-of-service benchmarks.

HP expects to be one of those major cloud providers. Below that level will be industry-focused and geographically-distributed clouds.

Business users of the next-generation global services will want hybrid cloud models that operate in complete concert with their back-end systems, said Biri Singh, senior vice president and general manager for HP Cloud Services.

The users of these services will want access via the cloud to systems as complex as business analytics and as simple as an app development widget, he said.

The incentives to contribute to a cloud marketplace that HP plans to build will be a little different than Apple's app store model, Singh said. When a developer puts a widget in the cloud that can, say, help build a better Ruby application, he or she could get paid for each API call, said Singh.

"We think just standing up virtual machines is so 2009," said Singh. Developers will want tools and services from the cloud. "They need a marketplace," he said.

Users will also want an open environment, said Singh.

Though HP has signed on only to the open-source OpenStack cloud standards effort, Sing nonetheless believes that federation across other clouds is important.

"We're investing our time not in trying to nail the one technology stack that will own it all, but in planning for a heterogeneous environment," said Singh.

The marketplace will arrive later, perhaps this year.

HP's unveiling Tuesday of a public cloud infrastructure-as-a-service offering that's due next month is just part of a broader set of cloud offerings.

The marketplace will be a place where everyone in the ecosystem "can actually run and build their services," said Singh.

James Staten, an analyst at Forrester Research, sees service providers as the major users of HP's services, in part because of changes to the outsourcing market.

Companies moved away from three-to-five-year IT outsourcing contracts where they turn everything over to an outsourcer.

Users have grown more particular and are more likely to keep some applications in-house or acquire them as services through a software-as-a-service provider, said Staten.

"We see selective sourcing," he said.

The HP cloud will be different from Amazon's offering, say analysts. Amazon relies on an ecosystem of third-party support to offer everything from infrastructure support to services.

Where Amazon only takes responsibility for providing basic cloud services, HP will have the ability to maintain an operating system or monitor a network for users, said Staten.

Part of HP's cloud outlook is based on a view that IT will shift to an operating expense model as users turn more to services and away from capital expenses.

Sing sees the shift unfolding over the next decade.

Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT, said a shift to operating expense models has been long debated, and that approach could be -- and has been -- effective in good times. But as soon as the economy hits a rough spot, users tend to pull back on the operating expense goals.

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov, or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His email address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

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