Monthly Archives: October 2010

HP Cloud Strategy? No So Much…

At Interop this week I met with Doug Oathout, VP of Converged Infrastructure at HP.  It’s often been very frustrating trying to figure out if HP really has a cloud strategy and is poised to compete in this market.  While nobody would claim that HP is delivering any clarity on cloud right now, it sounds like they might be moving down the path a bit and a more comprehensive strategy might someday emerge.

What Doug talked about first was the economic value of a converged infrastructure (naturally).  In this regards they are positioning against Cisco and the broader VCE Coalition with particular emphasis on openness vs. the more prescriptive VCE approach (any hypervisor vs. VMware only, automation tooling that crosses into legacy environments, etc.).  Cisco might say that the downside of supporting that level of openness is complexity and increased cost.  We’ll let them duke that out but it’s clear that a market that used to be fragmented (storage, servers, networking, etc. sold by different vendors and integrated at the customer) has tilted towards more integrated and verticalized infrastructures that result in far fewer components and much less work to deploy.  I had to wonder if there was an opportunity for someone to do the same thing with commodity gear targeting the mass-market service provider space.

As for cloud offerings, there seem to be only three at the moment (at least that I was able to learn about in this meeting).

The first is private clouds built from their Matrix converged infrastructure and Cloud Service Automation (CSA) tools bundle (an integrated set of Opsware and other tools).  I guess I’d characterize this as IBM’s CloudBurst circa 2009 and Unisys’ Secure Private Cloud, but with a weaker story on cloudy capabilities such support for multi-tenancy, scaling out and more.  It’s the “cloud-in-a-box” approach.

Their second cloud offering is a quick-start service (“CloudStart“) to roll out a simple “cloud in a box” solution on customer premise in 30 days. Obviously that’s kind of a bunch of hype because the process changes, integrations etc. you need to do to really drive value out of an enterprise cloud program take many months of deep effort.

Their third area is not really a defined offering.  They are doing services around some other cloud technologies, most notably Eucalyptus.  This is natural given the deficiencies in cloud functionality with their CSA-based approach.

Notably absent are any offerings out of their former EDS managed services unit.  Doug mentioned a Matrix Online offering for standing up short-term infrastructure blocks for testing purposes, but it’s not a cloud, isn’t multi-tenant even, and requires HP labor to do the provisioning.  Like I said, not a cloud (if it even exists – can’t find it on the HP site)

Meanwhile, it seems like IBM is not putting as much emphasis on the CloudBurst approach anymore, instead focusing on their Smart Business Development & Test public cloud offering.  Sources tell me that this offering is doing quite well and several months ago there were tweets about them having run out of capacity.  HP currently has no such offering.

The takeaway for me was that HP is making inching progress in a couple areas of their business, but no discernible progress on driving a delivering a comprehensive, aligned and compelling enterprise cloud story to the market.  Looks like we’ll be waiting for a bit longer…

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Savvis Offers Peek at Enterprise Cloud Future

I was first briefed on the Savvis Symphony VPDC (virtual private data center) back at Cloud Expo NYC in April of this year and had intended to post about it back then, or at least when they went live in July… so much for good intentions… They are starting to market this more heavily now, so perhaps it’s not a bad time to get this done because VPDC has a few innovations that are worth noting.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of VPDC is their tiered QoS model.  Think about it.  Today clouds come in a one-sized-fits-all model.  You either have the open Amazon model with minimal SLAs and fairly opaque underlying infrastructure based on commodity gear, or you get the “enterprise cloud” model with higher SLAs (and costs) based on enterprise-grade gear. Or something in the middle.  But you can’t typically get two or three SLA/QoS configurations, with commensurate pricing, from the same cloud provider.

With VPDC, that’s exactly what you get.

click to enlarge

VPDC never goes to the Amazon level – with very low cost instances and no SLAs – but they do offer two QoS tiers today, with a third tier planned.

VPDC Essential is their starter level, with 99.9% SLA, best-effort QoS and inexpensive SATA-based storage. This is targeted at the dev/test use case.

VPDC Balanced is the mid-tier offering, with 99.99% SLA, VLANs, enterprise QoS on a 100 Mbps network, and 2-tier ILM storage.  They are targeting Balanced at the Web application use case.

VPDC Premier (planned) will have 99.995% SLAs, more VLAN provisioning, 1 Gbps network, and 3-tier storage for more “mission-critical” workloads.

As you move up, you get more prioritization of bandwidth, less storage contention, fewer VMDKs per LUN, faster drives, etc.

Savvis would not give me any pricing information, but clearly you will pay more for Premier and likely even the Essentials pricing will be significantly more than Amazon or Rackspace. Lack of pricing transparency puts them a bit at odds with AT&T (Synaptic pricing here) and Terremark (vCloud pricing here).  The only information I have I that pricing is hourly based on CPU, RAM and which operating system you are using (Microsoft’s SPLA fees presumably causing the difference).  Interestingly they are disclosing bandwidth fees and are charging for bandwidth like a hosting provider ($50/Mbps 95th percentile model) vs. the more typical straight per GB in/out metered model.

Savvis has no current intention of allowing credit card self-signup models for new users, even with their Essentials package.  This could be a mistake as so many projects start off with a very small buy and the Amex charge is easy to expense.  AT&T and Terremark might get those customers that don’t want to start with a sales rep, though the buyer seriousness is certainly better formed if they are willing to go through that pain.  By and large, making it easier to sign up could be in Savvis’ best interests.

What’s VPDC Made Of?

VPDC is an enterprise cloud based on VMware virtualization, Cisco UCS blades, Cisco Nexus switching, HP Opsware provisioning automation, Compellent SAN storage, and other technologies – okay, good enterprise-grade stuff.  Savvis relies heavily on deep integration with UCS and Nexus to get the QoS tiering to work with VMware.  They also rely heavily on the flexibility of Compellent’s “Fluid Data Storage” virtualized storage software.  All images are monitored using TripWire and connectivity can include MPLS and VPNs.

What’s VPDC Mean for the Cloud Market?

Amazon, Rackspace and others have grown largely on the backs of Web developers, SMBs, and enterprise usage outside the control of corporate IT.  This is but a fraction of the potential future market as the enterprise moves more and more to the cloud.  Enterprise IT buyers are much more precise and demanding when it comes to infrastructure than most Web and game developers.  Having tiered SLA/QoS levels, with pricing to match, might become an important consideration for even the mass-market cloud providers if they want to win in the enterprise.  The market is just too big to ignore.

Alternatively, you could see the mass-market guys go the opposite route – adding the “five nines” SLAs and high QoS capability to their core commodity-priced offerings.  This is a technology and scale issue that Amazon and Google are probably in a good position to leverage.   After all, if you can get VPDC Balanced for the price of EC2 reserved instances, it will be pretty hard for Savvis to compete.  But that’s a big if.

In any case, Savvis has done a nice job leveraging the technology now available to create a differentiated offering based on QoS and SLAs.  VPDC is available through data centers in the U.S. and U.K.

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