HP and Eucalyptus: Bold Stroke or Too Little, Too Late?

Arthur Cole
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Big decisions are invariably followed by big consequences, and as Jack Nicholson said in his portrayal of labor leader Jimmy Hoffa: “In every conflict there are casualties. The question is, what has been lost and what has been gained?

The line refers to a bloody confrontation between unionists and strike breakers, but it can easily be applied to the machinations surrounding the emerging cloud industry, and in particular HP’s recent purchase of Eucalyptus.

On the surface, it would seem odd that a company that seemed to be solidly in the OpenStack camp would suddenly shift gears to one of its top proprietary rivals. But as eWeek’s Sean Michael Kerner points out, not only does it co-opt a chief competitor to the Helion platform and other OpenStack-based offerings, it also gives HP a wedge into the leading cloud provider of the day: Amazon. For the wider cloud community, the acquisition removes another layer of confusion that, frankly, was one of the chief obstacles in many private cloud deployment strategies.

Let’s also not overlook Eucalyptus’ ability to operate across multiple hypervisors, says Information Week’s Charles Babcock. The platform is adept at moving workloads across ESX Server as well as OpenStack platforms like Red Hat’s KVM. So not only will it be able to integrate comfortably with Helion, but it will then forge a direct link between those platforms and the public cloud, furthering the development of hybrid infrastructure. And in Eucalyptus CEO Marten Mickos, HP gets as close as you can get to a rock star in the cloud computing field, and publicity is invaluable to a company like HP that is attempting to execute a complex strategic turnaround.

In hindsight, of course, all the clues for a dramatic change in Eucalyptus’ fortunes were in plain sight, says TechCrunch’s Ron Miller. Mickos himself performed an abrupt about-face on OpenStack about a month ago – just about the time he would have entered serious negotiations for a buyout. Suddenly, OpenStack was an “all-embracing cloud project that various large and small vendors package for complex and highly customized deployments.” The one drawback is that it is often very difficult to implement due to the wide range of contributing technologies, something that Eucalyptus can rectify with its appliance-based approach.

Potential drawbacks to this acquisition are not nestled in the deal itself, but in the wider forces shaping the cloud industry, according to Gigaom’s Derrick Harris. With new technologies like container-based virtualization solutions such as Kubernetes, Mesos and Cloud Foundry threatening to rewrite the very underpinnings of private and hybrid cloud deployments, old-guard vendors like HP could find themselves outclassed in relatively short order regardless of how well they implement high-order architectures. Consolidation in emerging markets is often a good thing, but it can also commit vendors and their customers to courses of action that ultimately prove less than stellar.

So is the Eucalyptus acquisition a smart move for HP? At the risk of sounding cliché, only time will tell. Eucalyptus has emerged as one of the more innovative players in the cloud space, but will that innovation continue within the corporate constraints of a giant like HP, and will it be enough to carry the company through what is likely to be a tumultuous rollout of cloud computing technology?

Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata, Carpathia and NetMagic.

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