HP: Cloud Is a Partner Play

HP Enterprise Groupd chief Bill Veghte

HP Enterprise Groupd chief Bill Veghte

HP wants to build your cloud, and your customer’s cloud. And based on comments from its Enterprise Group chief at the company’s HP Discover event in Barcelona, it’s hard to tell how much it wants to offer its own cloud.

HP has marketed Public Cloud offerings direct to customers and through the channel for some time, but its line card, strategy and offerings have seemed undefined and frequently changing. So to has its channel strategy – the company has largely relied on recruiting partners in an agency model, with promises of a more complete channel program to come.

If partners have been unsure about HP’s public cloud offering, they’re not alone. In a press conference Wednesday morning at Discover, HP Enterprise Group chief Bill Veghte said that HP “will provide cloud services, both managed and public, in a consumption model, but frankly, most of what we do on the consume side will be done with partners.”

Veghte describes a broad community of partners for HP on the cloud side, including its traditional VAR community, hosting providers, and ISVs. “These are deep partnerships that are not simply about a resale model,” Veghte said of the company’s 250-plus worldwide community of partners “certified and driving the cloud business.”

But perhaps most telling, Veghte said the company’s cloud aspirations center around “how do we provide the essential hardware, software and service offerings … to help partners and customers build and operate their own cloud.”

If HP’s real cloud mission is to help a variety of partners and customers build and operate their own clouds, do its own public and managed cloud services have a play? Veghte’s comments certainly suggest that HP would rather help others build their own cloud. But HP’s own public cloud offerings would seem to compete with that core mission. Our industry is not one unfamiliar with the concepts of co-opetition, but HP may want to turn down the volume around its own public cloud offerings if it wants to turn up the volume around those built and operated by its partner base.

Certainly, that has been the approach at rival Cisco Systems, where CEO John Chambers has made it a point to frequently remind his partner base that his company has no interest in introducing and marketing its own cloud service, outside of perhaps specific cloud-based applications, such as its WebEx collaboration platform or certain network security services.

Between its server and storage hardware, networking gear, management software, and stacks of any and all of the above (its new Converged Systems offerings, for example), HP makes a strong case as one of the few vendors that can offer all the parts its partners need to build their own clouds or roll out cloud infrastructure for their customers. And it offers a growing line of flexible cloud building blocks in its CloudSystem offerings, for those looking for a simple, more pre-integrated path towards the cloud. But if its real goal is to help a multitude of partner constituencies build and operate their own clouds, its own public cloud offerings may well be detrimental to that effort. At best, a distraction from the core mission, and at worst, putting the vendor in competition with the partners it says are its cloud raison d’etre.

Veghte’s position at Discover suggests that the new Enterprise Group chief grasps that potential disconnect, and is taking step to minimize the impact of its small public cloud business on its very large infrastructure business.