HP and Eucalyptus and OpenStack, oh my!

What the heck is going on with HP, an OpenStack cloud supporter, buying Eucalyptus? Here's one theory.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor
Marten Mickos, the former MySQL CEO, will take over as general manager of HP's cloud business.

A few weeks ago I was mystified when Marten Mickos, CEO of the open-source, Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) private cloud program Eucalyptus, announced that he wanted to be a contributor to arch-rival OpenStack. Now, Mickos has sold Eucalyptus to HP, an OpenStack champion.

What's going on here!?

While sources close to the deal said Eucalyptus sold for under a hundred million — the financial terms were not announced — Mickos, the former MySQL CEO, will take over as general manager of HP's cloud business and report directly to HP CEO Meg Whitman. Martin Fink, an OpenStack backer who oversaw the creation of HP's OpenStack-based Helion cloud, will stick around as HP's CTO and director of HP Labs.

When Mickos first started talking about working with OpenStack he said, "OpenStack, in my view, is the all-embracing cloud project that various large and small vendors package for complex and highly customized deployments." Eucalyptus's stock in trade was that it was the private cloud that could work hand-in-glove with Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Now, in the HP press release, the company announced that Mickos will lead the HP Cloud organization in building out the HP Helion portfolio,.

In the same statement, Mickos said, "Eucalyptus and HP share a common vision for the future of cloud in the enterprise. Enterprises are demanding open source cloud solutions, and I'm thrilled to have this opportunity to grow the HP Helion portfolio and lead a world-class business that delivers private, hybrid, managed and public clouds to enterprise customers worldwide."

In his Eucalyptus blog, Mickos added, "The visions and dreams of the Eucalyptus team, my own passion for leading fast-moving innovative teams, the amazing strength of HP’s Cloud team, and the ambitious goals of HP overall are coming together. This strong combination will provide our customers with the world class solutions, services and support for private, managed and hybrid clouds."

OK, I'm still confused. Will Eucalyptus be continuing as an independent project? Will they try to merge Eucalyptus into OpenStack!?

Lydia Leong, a cloud analyst at Gartner, speculated that what HP wanted wasn't so much Eucalyptus's software; rather, it was getting the company's "people and their know how." I think getting a technology partnership with the 800-pound gorilla of the public cloud, AWS, played the biggest role.

The Eucalyptus program may survive, Leong suggested, as "an open-source cloud management platform  that provides an AWS API-compatible framework over a choice of underlying components, including OpenStack component options. In this context, it makes sense to have a standalone Eucalyptus product / add-on, providing an AWS-compatible private cloud software option to customers for whom this is important."

I can buy that theory. After all, as Leong added, it appears that the AWS/Eucalyptus partnership will continue: "Specifically, AWS has provided Eucalyptus with engineering communications around their API specifications, without any technology transfer or documentation."

Of course, Eucalyptus has never been, not ever sought to be, merely an AWS clone. It was meant to be a hybrid cloud for companies that wanted the ease of use of AWS without having to put all their eggs in the public cloud basket.

My theory is that Eucalyptus will end up providing a hybrid cloud bridge between HP Helion's OpenStack private cloud and AWS' public cloud. Such an offering would not only make HP's cloud offerings more attractive to both SMB and enterprise customers; it also will help Helion stand out from the multiple OpenStack offerings from other companies such as VMware, Canonical and Red Hat.

Only time will tell if I'm on the right track. So far, HP isn't saying exactly where they're going with Eucalyptus. Perhaps we'll find out at the OpenStack summit in Paris in early November. I wouldn't count on finding out HP's certain course any sooner than that.

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