Mark Twain once said, “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”
In that vein, maybe Meg Whitman would say, “The rumors of our HP’s Public Cloud’s death have been greatly exaggerated”.
There is no doubt that HP’s future in the Public Cloud market is going to be challenged, especially in light of the success of Amazon’s Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft’s Azure. However, HP has been smart about moving the public cloud message from a transactional perspective to a more strategic play that looks more like Cisco’s Intercloud position of connecting clouds.
There are basically three public cloud models. They include, but are not limited to (for the time being):
Build it and they will come. This includes; Alibaba, AWS, Google, HP Helion, Microsoft Azure, and Rackspace. These companies have heavily invested in building their own infrastructure and deliver many of their own workloads, but they also create in some cases vendor lock-out.
Partner with everyone to avoid vendor lock-out. The Dell model of partnering to eliminate a single console while focusing on a broader set of non-organic capabilities delivered via partners.
Connecting Clouds. A hybrid of the above two models. Cisco’s Intercloud model is a good example of this where customers can connect with multiple different clouds regardless of the service provider. This model is unique, especially for those companies that want to leverage multiple service providers.
While HP may be back-stepping from their position in the public cloud, one could conclude from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “the lady doth protest too much, methinks”
However, this position is largely advantageous to HP’s channel and service provider businesses. For example HP’s service provider successes with firms like Centurylink, and other Cloud hosting and Service Providers (CSP’s) that include Openstack and other HP service provider solutions, will help HP compete at multiple levels, not just against AWS but all other public cloud providers. HP can be the adult in the room by providing a solid hardware, software, managed services, and service provider solution to its customers. Obviously, the value HP can continue to drive in public cloud will be through key customer and partner wins, but this battle will be won in the channel and at the service provider level and less in the rent-a-space war for logos.
That being said, here are three suggestions HP might consider:
Establish a devops and/or development environment where programmers are motivated to develop for an HP platform. HP has a history of not being successful in recruiting development partners to build to an HP platform like an apps store. Partnering with firms like Telestax would not only bring an active developer community to the business, it would also help drive unique solutions to both Helion and OpenNFV in the areas around WebRTC, SIP, and SS7 mobile connectivity.
Continue to engage and support its channel partners. Cloud business models have forced the channel to undergo significant change. Traditional channel partners that sold hardware and software now look more like solutions providers, solutions providers and cloud brokers are the next generation Systems Integrators, and there is a concern that Systems Integrators will start looking more like OEM/ODM providers. Partners are being forced to make the journey to the cloud whether they like it or not. HP should reward loyalty (especially during the run-up to the split), support the channel by providing compensation and training resources, and most of all celebrate and promote not just HP’s wins, but partners too.
Align vertically and circle the wagons around solutions and workloads that solve specific business problems. HP has an arsenal of horizontal solutions like Vertica for Big Data, likely Hadoop killer-app Trafodion. Vertically aligned solutions will allow HP to develop specific value propositions much like they have done with their Open NFV (Network Functions Virtualization) solution for carriers. I received a note from HP’s SVP of HP Cloud, Kerry Bailey, noting that HP is gaining traction in France within both Enterprises and the Public Sector – customer wins and use cases will only help to bolster HP’s position and confidence in the marketplace.
While some might say HP has capitulated the public cloud space, it can be argued that HP is focusing on providing services and solutions that specifically address their channel and service provider’s strategic needs. Public cloud is an adjunct enabler that allows HP to compete on a different dimension and value proposition. That is why rumors of HP’s Public Cloud death should not be exaggerated.