Microsoft, HP unveil

Microsoft Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. Wednesday announced a US$250-million three-year investment toward integrating their respective technology stacks from infrastructure to application in a cloud-driven effort the companies said “represents the most integrated technology stack in the industry today.”


The goal is to help customers more easily develop, deploy and manage IT environments by giving them integrated technologies that are as close to plug-and-play as possible.


Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said that teaming up on enterprise data centre offerings builds upon an “incredible 25-year partnership” and is in line with the accelerating movement toward the modern data centre. “That really means a movement to a cloud model based upon a well-defined and well-integrated virtualization and management approach,” said Ballmer.


Ballmer said if customers don’t want to host their infrastructure on Windows Azure, then they need a technology stack on which to build a private cloud version of Windows Azure. “Microsoft needs to evangelize that same application model whether you to choose to host in the cloud or inside your own premises … so in a sense this is entirely cloud-motivated,” said Ballmer.


HP chairman and CEO Mark Hurd said this announcement is vastly different from previous collaborations between the two companies because this “breakthrough” move aligns “big parts” of their go-to-market capabilities. “This is the deepest level of collaboration and integration and technical work that we’ve done that I’m certainly aware of,” said Hurd.


Hurd pointed out that considerable labour has been put towards aligning both companies’ engineering, go-to-market, and services teams, but that it’s an effort that is well worth it.


Hurd insisted that the announcement has been a long time in the making and has nothing to do with Oracle Corp.’s acquisition of Sun Microsystems Corp. “I don’t want you to think of this as a reaction to anything,” said Hurd. He added that Oracle will continue to be a very important partner moving forward.


Although Microsoft and HP are announcing this tight relationship, Ballmer said he respects that HP will continue to work with rival companies to Microsoft, and vice versa.


Dave Senf, research director with Toronto-based IDC Canada Ltd.’s infrastructure solutions group, said he doesn’t expect radical changes in HP’s server and storage numbers given this relationship with Microsoft. The private cloud space is a new opportunity for vendors that is an offshoot from the typical IT purchase where these competitors play, said Senf.


But Senf points out that the high degree of integration that Microsoft and HP are boasting is not unique in the IT space. “We’ve seen this evolving for years,” he said.


There have been other significant announcements of collaboration between heavy weights that target the private cloud, said Senf, like the Virtual Computing Environment coalition featuring EMC Corp., VMware Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc. last November. And, Oracle has said its internal cloud strategy will, post-integration with Sun, be based on Sun hardware.


In the short term, the Microsoft and HP announcement, said Senf, is about private clouds. In the long term, once services like Windows Azure become more familiar concepts, it will be about migrating that internal cloud customer install base to the external cloud, said Senf.


“This is the clash of the cloud titans,” said Senf. The collaboration will give Microsoft and HP considerable strength in the small-to-medium business space, where they already have a strong install base in Canada, and position them to move up market, he said.


Microsoft and HP said later this year they will release pre-packaged offerings around Microsoft Exchange Server and high-end data warehousing for Microsoft SQL Server and. They will also work together on Windows Azure (Microsoft bought HP hardware for the Azure environment) to help customers take advantage of cloud applications.


Bob Muglia, president of the Microsoft’s server and tools business, said the collaborative investment will lead toward the development of a future data centre that looks nothing like today’s servers. Muglia said it will look a lot like a “next-generation mainframe except it will be thousands of times more powerful and at a fraction of cost.”

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