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HP offers partly cloudy futures

PODLookover You can be forgiven if you feel like clouds of computing are rolling past you. Cloud computing, where a remote datacenter's storage and compute power takes the duty of local servers and services, is driving a lot of HP's efforts to attract enterprise business. The concept is defined in so many ways that one analyst offers advice for "cloud sourcing strategists."

At the recent HP Technology Forum & Expo, HP worked to demonstrate how the cloud concept has been assimilated into HP's enterprise offerings. The means range from developing the knowledge to adopt this new strategy through company-maintained, redundant and adaptive servers, to letting HP do it all for you with services. HP's VP of Marketing for its EDS unit has been quoted this quarter as saying "
Cloud means a lot of things to different people. Right now the objective, particularly for large enterprises, is to experiment to understand what the implications are."

There's more than one level of experimenting going on here. HP's trying to see what might stick to your budget. Cloud computing is a new term, one being applied to the yeoman work during this tough year's IT sales missions. But cloud computing might be an alternative to HP 3000 ownership if 1. Applications can be found in the cloud to enable a customer's services to its business centers. 2. These applications can be customized to fit company business processes, and 3. The whole solution is as reliable as maintaining your own datacenter.

Reliability is a key to replicating the 3000 value. The HPTF attendee above isn't looking into the clouds for an enterprise solution. He's looking over the ceiling of an HP product that's as non-cloudy as anything can be, but built by the vendor to deliver "Cloud Assurance."

PODRack The IT community that prizes HP 3000 experience knows that clouds can disappear for awhile. Everything goes down. Last week one of the most adept of cloud computing providers, Google, saw its services evaporate for millions of users of Google Code, when the Google App Engine went offline. The event of a few hours' outage made a case for the very non-cloudy HP offering, the HP POD. Unlike the cloud, the Performance-Optimized Datacenter is delivered not over a network, but packed in a 40-foot commercial storage container. HP will drop one at your request, overnight.

The POD made a tour stop at the HPTF, where a helpful HP rep offered a slide show that serves as a virtual tour. The POD, explained in plain English, looks like a Datacenter of Impressive Size (DIS) filled top to bottom with server racks and extensive cooling. That's capacity for over 3,500 compute nodes, or 12,000 hot plug hard drives, or a combination thereof. If your local school district is out of classroom space, it might use portable buildings to supplement. POD appears to be the container-based portable building for an datacenter, expanding capacity 4,000 square feet at a time.

PowerhousePOD For the customer who's lost power, the POD solution can be coupled with a Powerhouse POD. (A Powerhouse not related in any way to the 3000 software company, since it's a massive hunk of hardware instead of a massive hunk of software and license fees.)

These two ends of HP's enterprise spectrum — on one hand, resources you cannot even see; on the other, a solution so large its delivery requires a flatbed tractor-trailer — shows HP casting a wide net. This month the HP Cloud Discovery Workshop debuts, a service to educate you about how cloud computing fits in an IT service provider strategy.

The POD feels more like the HP 3000 datacenter. But HP calls the POD "cloud-enabling computing." By any name, using offsite resources becomes very popular in an economy where few new purchases of capital goods can get approval. Much like the HP 3000, a POD becomes the heavy hardware to make HP promises of services come true. HP wants to offer infrastructure, platforms, as well as software, all as services. Clouds become the ultimate HP virtualization trick, enabled by hardware engineered to be redundant.