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Accelerating cloud deployment with pre-integrated solutions: Comparing HP, IBM and VCE

In the last few years, the usefulness of the cloud for business has been greatly enhanced by the creation of systems for deploying infrastructure and applications with simple templates and wizards. This has made cloud services much easier to use. HP's Cloud Maps, IBM's PureFlex System and VCE's Vblock all provide platforms to deploy resources via virtualisation. However, these three options have markedly different focuses. VCE Vblock is aimed exclusively at VMware and IBM's PureFlex System is geared towards its own AIX servers and WebSphere, without the ability to integrate existing servers. HP's CloudSystem, however, supports hypervisors from a number of different vendors, and can draw on a varied range of resources, including existing systems. But this is just part of what makes HP's option the most effective choice.

Although VMware is still the leading virtualisation software, with nearly half the market, Microsoft's Hyper-V is gaining share, and other vendors have significant followings too. Also, whilst a cloud provision might be using one virtualisation system now, there is a good chance that it will develop in the future, with the growth in hybrid public-private cloud, so you might want to switch to another virtualisation system in the future. But you will still want to have a uniform management experience, despite bringing together heterogeneous services. For the fastest adoption and lifetime flexibility, your company needs a platform with the widest compatibility possible.

HP's CloudSystem provides a Converged Cloud architecture to address this situation. Whilst the HP CloudSystem is optimised for HP hardware, it also supports servers from Dell, IBM and Cisco; storage from EMC and NetApp; and Cisco networking components. Virtualisation hypervisors can come in the form of VMware ESX/ESXi, Microsoft Hyper-V, Red Hat KVM, as well as HP's own Integrity VM. HP also offers three levels of CloudSystem, starting with Matrix. This provides infrastructure as a service (IaaS), allowing this to be implemented and managed with a few clicks. The CloudSystem Enterprise level provides unified management across private and public cloud as well as traditional servers. The final Service Provider level is aimed at aiding the aggregation of services from disparate sources into bundles that can be offered to commercial customers.

Companies building their own cloud will be looking at the Matrix or Enterprise levels of CloudSystem. Both allow the inclusion of existing infrastructure. With CloudSystem Matrix, services can be designed with drag-and-drop, and then provided via a self-service portal, which can provision these services automatically. It can be implemented on all servers supported by VMware and Microsoft Hyper-V. HP's Cloud Service Automation (CSA) can be used to create role-based access control, with integration options for HP Asset Manager to track usage and translate this into chargeback costs. To make life even easier, HP's Cloud Maps can be supplied as a catalogue of applications that can be installed via simple wizard configuration processes. Over 200 of these are already available, for installing applications such as Microsoft Exchange, SQL Server, Oracle Database, and SAP. The HP Cloud Maps drastically reduce provisioning times for the end user, from a lengthy procurement process to a few minutes and a couple of clicks.

The key factor here is that HP's Cloud System can be implemented on existing hardware from a diverse range of vendors and using a variety of platforms. Starting with storage, whilst there is optimisation for HP's own 3PAR StoreServ, support is also available for other HP storage platforms as well as EMC and NetApp products. As stated earlier, a wide range of hypervisors are compatible, making the hardware these can run on possible options for a cloud system, with all virtual machines manageable via HP CSA. Network infrastructure can come from Cisco and Brocade as well as HP's own Virtual Connect. Much of this could even be existing hardware that is being redeployed in a new cloud initiative. For those companies that need to extend their cloud provision into the public cloud, HP Cloud Services supports other options than HP's own, with Savvis and Amazon EC2 also compatible. HP's support for the cross-vendor open source OpenStack will also provide further public cloud options.

This flexibility and the facility to use existing hardware puts HP's CloudSystem in stark contrast to its competitors, which generally tie you to a specific vendor's products (their own), and usually necessitate the purchase of an entirely new platform. Not only can this mean a considerable fresh expense, but all the necessary infrastructure to support the additional resource will be required as well. However, HP CloudSystem doesn't tie you to the company's own hardware. This in large part comes from its compatibility with a wide range of hypervisors, including VMware, Microsoft and Red Hat.

In summary, a HP cloud implementation can begin with the CloudSystem Matrix software or CSA on top of existing hardware, so current investments can be built upon rather than replaced, and the cloud infrastructure can be built quickly. The private cloud can easily be linked to major public cloud provisions, for a hybrid configuration. Apart from HP's own Cloud Services, the support for Savvis and Amazon EC2 mean about 75 per cent of the public cloud market is covered, according to Gartner. This gives supreme flexibility in how you split your cloud services between public and private elements. The focus on OpenStack means that your company won't be locked into a particular vendor, either, and can potentially switch to another when the need arises.

Of course, companies can build the cloud on fresh hardware with HP as well. HP BladeSystems with Virtual Connect will create a cloud-ready infrastructure. With HP CloudSystem Matrix, the resources can quickly be pooled ready for use. Once a cloud service based on HP's CloudSystem technology has been created, applications can be rapidly provisioned using HP's Cloud Maps, self-service portals can be created, and automated life-cycle management configured. With all these capabilities – in particular, the vendor-agnostic flexibility and facility to use existing hardware - HP's services are the perfect choice to accelerate your company's adoption of the cloud, and make this fundamental shift to virtualised IT provision as fast, painless and cost-effective as possible.

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