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HP Wants to Cash In on Cloud Deployment

With momentum growing behind cloud computing as an alternative to traditional enterprise software, HP's looking to take steps to make sure it's got a dominant place in the cloud as well as the datacenter.

The company on Tuesday announced HP Cloud Assure, a project to help companies convert Web applications to a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform, while promising that such a move could provide the performance, security and availability that are foremost in customer concerns.

The move is aimed at capitalizing on burgeoning interest in cloud-based services, even as the trend may seem to run counter to HP's historic foothold in the datacenter. But HP (NYSE: HPQ) said it had been motivated to launch Cloud Assure after finding that customers were turning to cloud computing as a way of freeing themselves from the headaches of operating a costly, maintenance-intensive datacenter.

"We see some customers talking of the 'zero datacenter,' where they are going to move all their apps to the cloud," said Tim Van Ash, director of the Global Service Portfolio at HP SaaS. "It'll be interesting to see if they make that transition, but it's something I've actually heard from a number of Global 2000 companies. They don't see their core expertise at running infrastructure any more."

However, that kind of step doesn't mean simply taking a VMware virtual machine image and uploading it to Amazon EC2. "Of course, the problem there is the security infrastructure and security in the enterprise have to be created in the cloud if you take that move," Van Ash added.

That's where HP aims to come in.

Cloud Assure consists of HP services and software. On the software side, the offering includes HP Application Security Center, HP Performance Center and HP Business Availability Center, which are meant to address the three most common concerns of customers when deploying SaaS applications: availability, scalability and security.

"For some customers, while there's a lot of promise, the cloud paradigm also feels like a leap of faith," said Robin Purohit, vice president and general manager of HP's software products told a conference call in announcing the offering. He said it's meant for both large and mid-sized companies looking to save money over internal software deployments.

"Our ultimate goal is to take guesswork out of the confidence levels people have about deploying in the cloud and feel as confident about deploying in the cloud as they do in the four walls of their IT organization," he added.

All three are delivered SaaS-style and customers will also get a team of HP engineers to perform security scans, test performance, and monitor availability. The contracts have security assurances and HP backs them up with its own promises, according to Van Ash.

"The key thing from an assurance perspective is that we guarantee our services will be available 99.99 percent, and they include service penalties if we miss that," he told InternetNews.com.

[cob:Special_Report]HP software will scan the customer's networks, operating systems, middleware layers and Web applications and perform penetration testing, including some of the most common Web errors, like cross-site scripting and SQL injections. They will monitor performance and alert the customer if bandwidth and connectivity requirements are at their limit, and finally, HP will monitor the applications to isolate performance issues.

Because of the nature of the network and application scans, Cloud Assure is pretty much limited to Web applications, according to Van Ash. You won't be deploying a database or old client/server applications this way. It can service both internal-facing applications, the ones used by employees within a company, or external-facing apps that the Internet community can access.

HP Cloud Assure is available immediately and will be offered through HP's SaaS reseller program. HP expects that it will eventually become an offering through its EDS enterprise services company as well.