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HP updates IT automation suite for cloud deployments

Further pursuing its strategy to help enterprises move workloads to hosted environments, Hewlett-Packard has updated a number of its IT management tools with more capabilities to work with public and private clouds.

The updated software addresses "the new style of IT, where [IT shops] no longer support a monolithic environment in a data centre but actually a set of distributed environments," said Jerome Labat, vice president and general manager of cloud automation at HP.

While the cloud can simplify many IT duties, "from an operation and management perspective, you still need to deploy and instrument. You still need understand your SLAs [service level agreements]. You still need to ensure the compliance and governance of your workloads," Labat said.

To this end, the company has released version 10 of HP Operations Orchestration, version 10 of HP Server Automation and version 10 of HP Database and Middleware Automation 10. The company has also packaged all these software programs, along with the newly updated HP Cloud Service Automation 3.2, in a single integrated package, called the HP CloudSystem Enterprise Starter Suite.

The idea behind the new integrated set of packages is to make it easy for IT personnel to speed deployment of application-based services across a hybrid cloud environment, to "make it easy to deploy database services, or database backup services, or a full application across a site," Labat said.

HP Server Automation allows organisations to deploy and maintain the patching and updating of thousands of servers. The new version can update virtual servers that are sleeping. The previous version of the software could update only those virtual machines (VMs) that were active when the updating process was initiated. This was a problem, Labat said, because those virtual servers not running may fall out of compliance by not getting the required patches or updates. The new version can awaken a sleeping VM, update it, then shut it down again.

"If you didn't have this capability in a development environment where the engineers are standing up VMs very quickly, you would [have many VMs] that would be out of compliance very quickly," Labat said.

HP has also released the Server Automation software as an appliance, called HP Server Automation Standard. It includes much of the core configuration, deployment and compliance checking functionality found in the full software edition. The appliance would be ideal for smaller organisations and for branch offices, built to manage from 3,000 to 4,000 system nodes, which could be servers or virtual machines, Labat said. "We've encapsulated the Server Automation technology in an easy-to-deploy environment," Labat said.

HP Operations Orchestration is the company's process automation engine, able to link together separate applications in order to create a workflow across them. This is the first version of the software that is able to work in distributed workflows across different hosted providers. It can now interoperate with OpenStack cloud deployments, as well as with the Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service). The user interface has also been revised to accommodate the management of these new cloud resources. It also can fold into workflows SAP applications as well as HP's own ArcSight and Fortify software packages.

HP Database and Middleware Automation software provides capabilities to automate the management of databases and many middleware programs, working with Oracle's and Sybase's databases, Microsoft SQL Server, IBM DB2 and the IBM WebSphere and Oracle WebLogic application servers. Version 10 of this software has been tailored to work seamlessly with the other packages within the CloudSystem Enterprise Starter Suite. From Operation Orchestration, for instance, an administrator can now directly bring into a workflow any database or middleware management operations developed within this software.

Use of the combined set of software "enables our customers to start building platform services using existing assets," Labat said. "You can rapidly provision services, deploy them and put them under change control so you are always in band in terms of SLAs, and compliance with policies."

HP unveils unified cloud services

Hewlett-Packard kicked off its annual HP Discover user conference, being held in Las Vegas this week, with a number of new cloud computing offerings, emphasizing a single architecture that can be used across both in-house and public clouds.

"Regardless of whether we're helping people build a cloud, or if a customer consumes cloud services from us, [what HP offers] is built on one architecture," said Steve Dietch, HP enterprise vice president for worldwide cloud operations.

The company has updated software for managing cloud deployments and introduced a new set of certificates as well as a cloud-based service tailored for the airline industry.

HP has applied many of the upgrades to its flagship CloudSystem, a collection of technologies and services for running IaaS (infrastructure-as-a-service) deployments in-house or through a managed service. Previously, CloudSystem provided users with the ability to move their workloads from internal HP CloudSystem deployments to a hosted environment run by Savvis, which uses VMware's vCloud cloud management software.

CloudSystem will now offer customers the ability to move workloads to other providers as well, through Amazon's EC2 (Elastic Cloud Compute) or HP's own hosted pay-as-you-go services, which rely on OpenStack.

The company has also carved out individual components of its CloudSystem package for stand-alone use.

The CloudSystem management software, called CloudSystem Matrix, can now be purchased as stand-alone software. Previously it was only available as part of a package that combined HP hardware and software. "We're providing the software for those customers who choose to go to virtual environments first, who don't need physical management capabilities," Dietch said.

The CloudSystem Matrix includes a service designer and a self-service portal as well as automatic provisioning and capacity-planning capabilities. It can run on any x86-based server (not only on HP's) that supports Microsoft Hyper-V or VMware's hypervisor.

The company's Cloud Service Automation software has been carved from the CloudSystem package as a product on its own as well, allowing organizations to manage, at a high level, applications across both public and their own private cloud deployments. This software includes a self-service portal and graphical designer for packaging new cloud services.

"I can use this software to manage their entire lifecycle of an application in a cloud environment," Dietch said.

In addition to the CloudSystem releases, HP has also upgraded operations management software called HP Application Performance Management to handle cloud duties. The company has also upgraded its HP Diagnostics, HP Real User Monitor, HP Application Lifecycle Management, HP Performance Center and HP SiteScope products.

Through its enterprise services arm, HP has also introduced a SaaS (software-as-a-service) package targeted at the airline industry. Through existing service contracts with airlines, HP systems already handle 500 million passenger transactions per year, Dietch said. Now, HP wants to move its airline clients to its own SaaS services. The offering will initially handle duties such as data management, social media and analysis.

On the training front, HP now offers two certificates in building and managing cloud deployments. HP designed the Accredited Technical Professional to certify competence in cloud administration and the Accredited Solution Expert to certify skills in cloud integration.

HP advances public cloud as part of hybrid cloud strategy

After a year of chatter and several months of private beta testing, HP today announced the public beta of its public cloud services, which the company is billing as part of its overarching hybrid cloud-solution dubbed HP Converged Cloud.

HP Cloud Services -- built on OpenStack, HP Converged Infrastructure, and other HP-grown software -- aims to deliver an open-source public cloud infrastructure. HP's Cloud Services comprise five core components: HP Cloud Compute, HP Cloud Object Storage, and HP Cloud Content Delivery Network (CDN), which will enter public beta on May 10, and HP Cloud Block Storage and HP Cloud Relational Database (RDB), which will enter private beta the same day.

  • HP Cloud Compute lets user deploy compute instances on demand; it also lets users customize instances though RESTful APIs.
  • HP Cloud Object Storage provides scalable, on-demand online storage capacity suited for archiving and backing up data, serving static content for Web applications, and storing large public or private data sets.
  • HP Cloud CDN, built around Akamai's Intelligent Platform technology, accelerates the delivery of cached content, thus reducing latency and boosting cloud performance.
  • HP Cloud Block Storage, meanwhile, enables users to move data between compute instances. The offering is geared toward applications that require frequent read and write access.
  • HP Cloud RDB for MySQL provides developers with on-demand access to application data and is capable of scaling based on the number of instances deployed or the storage capacity required.

In conjunction with the Cloud Services news, HP also announced HP Converged Cloud, which HP said enables enterprises to build, manage, secure, and consume public, private, and managed cloud services within their existing IT infrastructure, thus creating "a seamless, hybrid environment."

Like HP Cloud Services, HP Converged Cloud is built on HP Converged Infrastructure, OpenStack, as well as HP's homegrown Management and Security software. As part of the HP Converged Cloud, the company announced over 100 new HP Cloud Maps, which provide prepackaged application templates for creating a customized catalog of services, deployable at the push of a button.

What's more, HP announced plans to enhance it FlexNetwork architecture with features to reduce bottlenecks associated with the development of new cloud services. HP's Virtual Application Networks speeds service delivery, simplifies management, and guarantees network service levels in cloud and other dynamic computing models, according to the company.

HP predicts dawn of new era in cloud computing

A global elite of 10 to 20 interoperable cloud providers will emerge, says cloud services exec at the unveiling of HP's public cloud IaaS offering

Hewlett-Packard sees the cloud computing's Big Bang, which started with the launch of Google Apps and Amazon EC2, coming to en end and a new future about to begin.

Instead of an expanding universe of hundreds of diffuse clouds, the world's economy will one day settle with 10 to 20 global cloud providers that can be counted on to be interoperable and meet certain quality of service levels. HP expects to be one of the major cloud providers in this future. 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 allow them to 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 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 of a public cloud infrastructure-as-a-service offering that's due next month is just part of 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 become 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.

Public cloud, virtual network components: HP takes aim at Amazon

Hewlett-Packard today announced a series of open source-based cloud offerings and added network automation capabilities to its hardware products in an attempt to carve out its piece of a market currently topped by Amazon Web Services.

HP announced that its public cloud infrastructure-as-a-service offering, called HP Cloud Services, will be launched in May. It's based on open source software from OpenStack and more than 6,000 customers have already used it in beta, the company says. In addition to the public cloud offering, HP also rolled out a series of software applications that allow enterprises to manage their private or public clouds, regardless of whether they use HP hardware or not.

On the networking side, the company is making a move toward software defined networking (SDN) through a series of new network automation tools that will be added to the company's FlexNetwork product.

Analysts say the moves represent HP's attempt to join the increasingly crowded cloud provider market, while the network advancements will give enterprises a new way to automate and virtualize their networks.

Prior to the announcements, HP commissioned a study that it says found that hybrid cloud models -- meaning those that combine public and private clouds -- are the model most enterprises will use in the future. With that in mind, company officials say it's important to create cloud offerings based on an open source model to allow interoperability between public and private clouds, as well as between clouds and legacy IT environments. "HP Converged Cloud enables enterprises to incorporate a blend of public, private and managed cloud services with their existing IT infrastructure to create seamless hybrid environments that rapidly adapts to their changing requirements," says Bill Veghte, EVP of software for HP, in a press release.

In addition to the announcement of the public cloud IaaS offering, HP also announced its Enterprise Cloud Services portfolio, which are a series of software applications for managing private clouds, business continuity functions and unified communications. HP also announced an expansion of its CloudMaps features, which provide instructions for how certain applications from third-party vendors -- such as Microsoft Exchange or SharePoint -- can be integrated into the HP cloud.

IDC analyst Frank Gens says the company's cloud moves are not surprising. There have been rumors of a public cloud offering from HP for months, and the company's involvement in OpenStack signaled that it may release a product based on the open source software. "I think they've got a strong message that will line up well with HP's perceived strengths in the market," Gens says. Enterprise IT managers are looking for a simple way to manage the complex and fast-evolving cloud market, Gens says. HP can leverage its relationships with enterprise customers by offering a series of cloud offerings and management products, he says

HP officials played up that point as well. "We bring a lot of DNA to this," says Shane Pearson, VP of software product marketing for HP. "We're in the market already today, and what we're really trying to do is expand what we already provide to give customers more capabilities to manage and deploy clouds."

But, Gens says HP has quite a bit of work to do to catch market leader Amazon Web Services in terms of market share. Ultimately, HP will have to offer competitive prices and access to a massively scalable infrastructure to achieve widespread adoption, he says.

HP's public IaaS cloud will be priced based on the compute power used in a given period of time. The pay-as-you-go and pay-per-use model also provides discounts as customers use more of the services.

  • Prices for the HP Cloud Compute start at 4 cents per hour for an extra-small, 1 GB of RAM, one virtual machine and 30 GB of local disk space offering, and range up to $1.28 per hour for the extra-large offering, which is 32 GB of RAM, eight VMs and 960 GB of local disk space.
  • As a comparison, AWS's default small standard on-demand instances begin at 8 cents per hour for Linux OS and 11.5 cents per hour for Windows and offer 1.7 GB of memory and 160 GB of instance storage. AWS's double extra-large ranges from 90 cents for Linux to $1.14 per hour for Windows and come with 34.2 GB of memory and 850 GB of instance storage.

As for the OpenStack involvement, Gens calls that a win-win. It's a shot in the arm for OpenStack, he says, which has had a tumultuous past few weeks. Citrix announced last week it is creating a competing open source cloud model by giving its CloudStack an Apache Software Foundation license. Using OpenStack allows HP to take advantage of the broad community of developers that have worked on the project, all while allowing HP to make the marketing case that its cloud products will not lock them in.

In addition to the cloud products, HP also announced new capabilities that advance SDN technology into its FlexNetwork offering, which is the company's suite of network management products.

Users automate the network configuration by first defining the network requirements of specific applications and characterizing them in a template. Routers and switches in the network are then automatically configured to comply with the predefined network characteristics, such as bandwidth, priority, access control lists, security policies and other attributes. It's a model to replace command line interfaces (CLIs) that have traditionally been used to configure networks. Using the automated techniques allows for faster deployment of network management policies that are customized to specific applications.

Joe Skorupa, a data center analyst for Gartner, says HP is making "a significant step forward in automation of the network," and he says it could mark the death of CLIs.

"The goal here is to get the networking functions involved much earlier on in the process so that the requirements of an application on the network are understood early on, so that policies are developed and rolled out to ensure that the network is optimally configured from the server all the way to the desktop to handle that application," he says. "It finally makes networking an integrated part of the process."

It's part of a revolution, he says. "Sitting down and typing individual commands and hoping you got them all right is not the way to run mission-critical applications." A higher degree of automation reduces costs, improves availability and speeds deployment times, he says.

The new network automation features will be made available as part of the company's FlexNetwork offering and will be released in June. Components include a designer that creates the connection profiles, a policy engine to store the profiles, plug-ins to make connections with hypervisors and engines for deploying those policies out to the network hardware.

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