HP: We're Not Getting Out of the Public Cloud Business

HP officials say Helion's role is to give enterprises options in public, private or hosted clouds, and can work with AWS, Google and Microsoft.


Hewlett-Packard executives are continuing to try to clarify the company's position on its role in public clouds following a public story last week suggesting the tech giant was pulling out of the market in deference to giants like Amazon, Google and Microsoft.

In the April 7 article in The New York Times, Bill Hilf, senior vice president of product management of HP's Helion cloud initiative, is quoted as saying that the company was ceding the public cloud space after finding less demand for its own OpenStack-based Helion cloud.

"We thought people would rent or buy computing from us," Hilf said in the story. "It turns out that it makes no sense for us to go head-to-head."

The article touched off a storm of stories talking about HP's exit from the public cloud scene and its difficulty in finding a cloud strategy that it could stick with. HP responded with a statement to the media denying the reports, saying that it "is not leaving the public cloud market. We run the largest OpenStack technology-based public cloud in the U.S. This has to do with not competing head-to-head with the big public cloud players."

Now, a week later, Hilf is filling out HP's response in a post on the company's blog.

"In the past week, a quote of mine in the media was interpreted as HP is exiting the public cloud, which is not the case," he wrote. "Our portfolio strategy to deliver on the vision of hybrid IT continues strong."

He outlines the work HP's done in developing the Helion Public Cloud and its services, both to serve its customers and to contribute to the open-source community, including the OpenStack field. At the same time, the company is continuing to grow its hosted, virtual private cloud environment for enterprises looking for fully managed clouds, he wrote.

"The bottom line is HP Helion offers customers choice across hybrid delivery models: public, managed (hosted), or private," Hilf wrote, noting an array of customers that use the technology, including Deutsche Bank, Fox, Telefonica and Societe Generale.

HP executives announced Helion in May 2014 as its latest effort in the competitive cloud computing space, and backed that up with a $1 billion, two-year investment in cloud R&D. Helion affirmed HP's commitment to the open-source OpenStack cloud orchestration technology, and the cloud initiative was seen as HP's effort to compete with the likes of Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google and Microsoft.

HP officials apparently have seen that competing directly with those giants in the public cloud space won't work. However, Hilf in his blog post said Helion is positioned as an offering aimed at enterprises that want to adopt private clouds in their own environments for sensitive applications and data while leveraging public clouds for workloads with unpredictable traffic patterns. Enterprises are becoming what he called internal service providers, and are looking for a combination of private and public cloud services while maintaining control and security. They're also looking for options in the public cloud, and Helion's integration capabilities make that possible, Hilf said.

"In addition to our own public cloud, enterprises often use a combination of providers, such as: AWS, Google, [Microsoft] Azure and Alibaba," he wrote. "We believe the ability to support and integrate different public cloud environments and services is an essential part of hybrid delivery for the enterprise. Today, we are building a portfolio of offerings in support of hybrid delivery for enterprise internal service providers, including the ability to partner with public cloud providers—spanning pure public clouds, telecom providers and local managed services companies. We are not doing pure public cloud only. We are not changing our strategy."

The questions over HP's cloud strategy come at a time of transition for the company. In September, HP bought cloud vendor Eucalyptus and put its CEO, Marten Mickos, in charge of its cloud operations. However, in February, he reportedly was ousted from that position and replaced by a triumvirate, which includes Hilf.

At the same time, hovering over all of this is HP CEO Meg Whitman's decision to split the company in two this fall, with one company—Hewlett-Packard Enterprise—focusing on business IT and services, and the other—HP Inc.—selling PCs and printers. HP's cloud technology is expected to play a significant role in the evolution of both new companies.