This morning, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard announced a joint cloud investment: they’ll contribute $250 million for developing and selling private-cloud packages. From the sounds of it, Microsoft’s recently live Windows Azure cloud will be connected to HP hardware.
The new venture is a three-year deal, and will be built on a new “infrastructure-to-application” model, the goal of which is to improve cloud computing by speeding application implementation. Like the many cloud products before it, the new Microsoft/HP venture promises to be cost efficient and simple, as well as to improve interoperability—“as close to plug-and-play as we can [get],” is how HP’s chairman and CEO described the goal of the partnership.
One of Microsoft’s motivations for the collaboration is surely to be able to offer private- and hybrid-cloud products. Windows Azure is a public cloud that went live early in January and is scheduled to be fully deployed and monetized at the beginning of February, and Microsoft had received criticism for Azure being only a public offering.
There are many opportunities private clouds provide enterprises, such private platforms have received a good deal of criticism. On the one hand, private clouds allow businesses to build, manage, and scale applications and services that are hosted by their own data centers. The idea of a “private” cloud also offers some comfort in terms of security issues. On the other hand, private clouds have been derided for locking users into a single vendor or technology. And just this morning, during the “Forecasting Fisticuffs” webinar (in which some esteemed tech pundits discussed their cloud-computing predictions), it was suggested that 2010 would be the year the private cloud would be discredited.
Private clouds’ reputation for such lock-ins has been one of the reasons some are skeptical about this new venture. While many are excited for the full release of Windows Azure, underperforming Microsoft products have left some unconvinced. But we’re interested to see how Microsoft’s new venture plays out, and what kind of news it creates in enterprise.