Implementing the cloud in your company is a major decision, and could be even more major than many other decisions about IT provision your company has made in the past.
Whereas client systems and servers are relatively generic, meaning you can switch vendors whenever the total cost of ownership provided by a new vendor makes it sensible to do so, a cloud provision can easily lock you into one vendor.
There may be no easy way to extract your workloads so that they can be used on another vendor's platform, making it very costly to change vendors, or maybe even impossible without having to start again from scratch.
This is why open source clouds can be a much more flexible option, in particular as implemented by HP's Helion.
The key element of HP Helion here is OpenStack. This is an open-source cloud computing software platform.
OpenStack was originally a joint project of Rackspace Hosting and NASA started in 2010, but HP also became a Platinum Founding member in the same year, and since then more than 200 companies have joined the project, illustrating the wide support for the OpenStack platform.
However, HP is a very central driving force, and has been in the top five of contributors to the code base of each iteration of the platform, and even number one for the Havana release.
HP has three elected members to the OpenStack Technical Committee, and is the only organisation to provide a dedicated group of employees to OpenStack projects, as well as participating in a wide range of the OpenStack Foundation's committees.
HP is clearly taking the OpenStack platform very seriously. HP has been running its own Public Cloud offering on OpenStack since 2012. Now OpenStack is at the core of the Helion portfolio. HP Helion OpenStack Community edition can be downloaded and used for free as a preview, giving companies the ability to explore the OpenStack cloud without committing to a hardware platform that would tie them in immediately.
HP Helion OpenStack Community supports deployments of up to 30 nodes and 600 virtual machines. But with OpenStack forming the basis of a full range of HP Helion cloud services, there's plenty of room to grow.
HP Helion OpenStack Community workloads can be migrated to the enterprise-grade HP Helion OpenStack platform as requirements expand, with professional services available to ease the transition.
HP Helion OpenStack supports deployments with thousands of compute nodes and tens of thousands of virtual machines, which HP has tested successfully via its own Public Cloud offering. HP Helion OpenStack provides a common architecture across private, public and hybrid clouds, and workloads can be transferred between them.
Automatic updates are close to the OpenStack trunk, too, so the HP Helion offerings will remain compatible with the latest OpenStack releases, with the current version based on Juno.
OpenStack is primarily focused on providing infrastructure as a service (IaaS), and has a modular structure. There are modules for compute, object and block storage, as well as networking. There's a dashboard module to control the automated provision of cloud resources, and another for the creation of disk and server images.
A billing module is available, plus the ability to combine multiple cloud applications into templates. These can be based on OpenStack's own REST APIs as well as a Cloud Foundry-compatible Query API. HP has invested a massive amount of developer time into contributing to many of these modules - a commitment that is set to continue for the foreseeable future.
All these features are standard to cloud services based on OpenStack, but the modules available depend on a specific OpenStack implementation. Fortunately, with HP's central role in OpenStack development, the full range of modules are integral to the HP Helion OpenStack offering.
Since HP Helion Public Cloud uses OpenStack, this makes it as transparent and flexible as possible for customers. The Horizon Console for HP Helion Public Cloud lets customers set up a variety of services, such as compute, monitoring or object storage, with a few mouse clicks.
Server instances can be launched from preset images, and then remotely managed like any server using standard tools. These workloads can be transferred to HP Helion private cloud services as business needs change.
Since OpenStack is not just the technology HP uses to power its own Public Cloud offering, but also its enterprise-grade HP Helion OpenStack platform, it is a fully extensible according to user requirements.
There's a comprehensive range of developer tools and resources available, and a community network of experts to provide the support necessary for those wishing to create their own bespoke cloud provisions, on a foundation of OpenStack technology. This also means that shifting applications between public, private and managed cloud environments is facilitated, allowing services to change alongside business growth.
Implementing a cloud based on HP Helion using OpenStack means that an enterprise will be able to reap all the benefits of a fully open-source provision. It can easily be extended to support new hardware, hypervisors, protocols and identity verification mechanisms.
Best of all, OpenStack is designed to be scalable and doesn't have a dependency on any particular hardware. So unlike propriety cloud solutions, it won't tie you to a level of hardware capability specified for more modest requirements.
This means that enterprises can keep on top of complex cloud implementations, provide interoperability across disparate hardware, whilst keeping security and governance consistent.
The cloud is all about responding to business needs as quickly as possible. To remain competitive, companies must be able to adopt new processes, powered by new applications, and even to change business models.
The lure of the cloud is that it is flexible enough to enable this rapid change, with implementation of new platforms in a matter of minutes rather than months. This can have dramatic implications for reducing costs.
But it can only be fully realised when the cloud provision is as flexible as possible, and this is what the OpenStack open source solution provides. HP Helion can facilitate a company's flexibility and potential to grow, with a full range of services that have OpenStack firmly at their core.