Silver Linings to HP/Microsoft Cloud?

What’s really important about the alliance

HP and Microsoft made an announcement last week about their intention to work closely together to advance technological integrations between them, addressing the needs of the industry for mature Cloud solutions. There are a lot of reasons why this wasn’t a very impactful announcement – all of the deliverables appear to be in the future, there is no exclusivity, and it was hard to understand if there is anything truly unique and innovative at this time, just to name a few. But there are some interesting scope and capability opportunities which others may have trouble matching.

Without question, this alliance is driven by other players in the industry who are formulating and rolling out Cloud strategies. IBM has been very aggressive in this area, and brings with it a strong bench of data center operations, compute platform, application software, and operations management technologies. Oracle is aiming at the same space, in particular with their efforts to acquire Sun Microsystems, giving them both software and compute assets, as well as hypervisor technology. The third camp influencing this move is the Cisco/EMC/VMware alliance, called VCE, which marries storage, network, compute, and hypervisor technology.

So why the HP/Microsoft alliance? On Microsoft's side, they needed a credible infrastructure player to help them as the Cloud becomes an increasingly viable approach for delivering their core products. HP, on the other hand, needed software and someone with a good hypervisor to match up with the system, network, storage, and management technologies they bring to the table as well as the operations expertise afforded by their services group (formerly EDS).

So what can HP do with Microsoft that the others can't? In particular, there are two areas where I see strategic advantage for this combination. First off, Microsoft has the most ubiquitous office productivity software suite – hands down, bar none - and moving that software and enabling server technologies behind it into the cloud will be one of the key checkmarks required for the cloud phenomenon to move from interesting to real. Second, HP brings a rich and deep portfolio of management technologies, stretching across all functional domains from the lowest network levels through servers and into applications, with service management and BSM capabilities tying it all together.

The result could just be the most complete story for Cloud that we have seen to date. It includes hypervisor technology that IBM does not. It addresses the application software that VCE does not. And, it includes the infrastructure technologies that Oracle does not.

Of course, it's much too early to tell whether or not the strategic edge will prove the difference in the long run, but it's all good in terms of what this means for the advancing maturity of the Cloud phenomenon. EMA has just published more on what it’s going to take to turn Clouds into a long-term relevant part of IT strategy – see the research report “The Responsible Cloud” here and a replay of the free webinar coming soon.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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