So which of these two IT giants looks like it's further ahead in the cloud computing space at this point?
This is not a simple question to answer, because both companies have long had point products and services that can contribute to building a legitimate cloud system. Only recently have they set up the corporate means to concentrate on finding those resources and delivering them to customers.
It is also safe to say that neither company has very many customers actually buying systems now to build cloud computing-type data centers, thanks to the effect the world economic downturn is having on most IT at the moment.
The more relevant question might be, not which one is further advanced, but how they differ in their approaches to providing goods and services in this genre.
At the moment, it looks like this:
- IBM has a series of nine data centers in strategic locations around the world that are ready and able to provide on-demand cloud applications (financial, scientific and others) for users in short order. It does not have a raft of IT infrastructure-type services like Amazon EC2 or Google Apps currently available, although its Tivoli tools division is working on that kind of delivery.
- HP doesn't appear to have all the networking for these cloud services ready for prime time just yet. It seems to be moving a bit more slowly, asking more tactical questions about how this is all going to play out. Nonetheless, like IBM, it has all the hardware, software and services available now to start a capital investment of this type.
In fact, HP has come to the cloud computing trend through positioning itself as a "one-stop shop" for data center design, construction and implementation.
In summary, the race is on. And between not just IBM and HP, but also Sun Microsystems, Dell, Symantec, EMC and a host of specialized companies that also want in on the action.
Which road map will work best?
Of HP and IBM, do either of them have the right road map? That will be what sets them apart in the marketplace for potential customers to evaluate.
"What surprises me the most about all this is how aggressively both of these companies are moving ahead in an area that really is not fully defined or worked out," virtualization and cloud systems analyst Bernard Golden, CEO of the HyperStratus consultancy, told eWEEK.
"IBM's looking at the cloud like, 'Here's a set of over-arching technologies that will do this [supply the cloud structure],' and they're looking at what it's going to take to have applications that will do that [provide the on-demand services for business]," Golden said. "[While] HP was focusing on issues around applications and making them very scalable, IBM was showing how they have Tivoli [and the Juniper connectivity] already wired to distribute these workloads.
"The question does remain: What profile of workloads? They showed a sort of 'potted' demo, and you have to understand what those apps are doing, and how they're architected. For a certain class of workloads, it looks like they have it wired in. But who really knows?"
Editor's note: This article was updated to clarify the chain of command at HP.