Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft will jointly offer private and public cloud solutions for organizations under a newly announced four-year initiative.
Those solutions will break down into three separate verticals: "Private Cloud," involving a combination of HP Enterprise Cloud Services and Microsoft cloud products-including Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, SharePoint Server 2010 and Lync Server 2010-delivered via HP data centers; "Public Cloud," primarily Microsoft's Office 365 cloud-productivity software; and a "Hybrid Solution" wherein HP resells Office 365 with HP Enterprise Cloud Services.
The platforms will first become available this month in certain major markets, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.
"This alliance not only broadens Microsoft's geographic reach," Mark Hill, vice president of Microsoft's Enterprise Server Group, wrote in a Dec. 8 statement, "it gives customers maximum flexibility to choose a cloud computing solution that meets their organization's specialized messaging and collaboration needs."
Under former CEO Leo Apotheker, HP began reshaping itself as an enterprise-services company. In August, he announced that HP would acquire U.K.-based Autonomy, an enterprise-IT provider, for around $10 billion. At the same time, he indicated that the company's PC manufacturing division was under consideration for a possible spin-off.
Current CEO Meg Whitman later decided to keep that manufacturing division in-house, but HP nonetheless continues to drive forward in the area of enterprise IT services. Certainly, it has no choice: rivals such as Oracle have made no secret of their determination to dominate that increasingly lucrative area by any means necessary.
Microsoft has also been making its own determined cloud push, with a raft of new services, including Office 365 and Windows Azure. These represent Microsoft's attempts to expand its revenue base beyond traditional, desktop-bound software such as Windows and Office.
With all the supposed advantages of the cloud-and the cost savings for companies who no longer need to buy on-premises IT infrastructure-it does carry some risks. Over the summer, customers of Office 365 were hit by outages. Other cloud-centric companies, including Amazon and Google, have likewise wrestled at moments with downtime. Despite those incidents, businesses overall seem to be interested in the cloud's capabilities, even if many of them remain largely on-premises for the moment.