HP’s Hilf backtracks: We’re not quitting the public cloud

antietam-80541_640Just days after Hewlett-Packard Co’s Bill Hilf hinted that the company was giving up the fight in the public cloud, the executive has gone and back-tracked, saying HP will continue to offer its OpenStack-based Helion cloud product for the forseeable future.

Hilf, Senior vice president of Helion Product Management, clarified that his earlier comments were misinterpreted by sections of the media after they first appeared in an interview with the New York Times. “A quote of mine in the media was interpreted as HP is exiting the public cloud, which is not the case,” Hilf insisted in a new blog post.

His statement comes after HP informed Computer Weekly that: “HP is not leaving the public cloud market. We run the largest OpenStack technology-based public cloud in the U.S. This has to do with not competing head-to-head with the big public cloud players.”

Hilf and HP apparently felt the need to reassure whatever Helion customers there are, after many understood his comments to mean the company had thrown in the towel with regards to the public cloud.

“We thought people would rent or buy computing from us. It turns out that it makes no sense for us to go head-to-head,” said Hilf to the Times last week.

The Times, and many other news outlets, interpreted those comments as meaning HP would no longer try to compete with cloud giants like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google and Microsoft, though HP itself quickly muddied the waters by telling VentureBeat that it “is not leaving the public cloud market. We run the largest OpenStack technology-based public cloud out there. This has to do with not competing head-to-head with the big public cloud players.”

HP does have a long history of sending out confusing messages about its strategic plans, and so this comes as no surprise. Back in 2011, HP dropped a bombshell when it said it would soon stop making PCs. Of course, that never happened and it continues to be one of the world’s top two PC makers today.

In his blog post, Hilf reminded us that “HP operates one of the largest OpenStack-based public clouds”, and that it’s here to stay.

“The HP Helion Public Cloud provides us with the unique ability to develop and test our technologies at significant scale, contribute IP [intellectual property] back to open-source communities, and leverage that expertise to benefit our customers,” Hilf wrote. “Our Public Cloud Services are also used by customers that require them as a component of their overall cloud and hybrid delivery strategy.”

Hilf also hinted at HP’s strategy going forward, hyping up the compatibility of its Helion cloud. He noted that developers and IT people demand a variety of options and services, and that many enterprises use a combination of cloud providers like AWS, Google, Azure and Alibaba, and said Helion was one of the best platforms to work alongside them, compatibility-wise.

“We believe the ability to support and integrate different public cloud environments and services is an essential part of hybrid delivery for the enterprise,” Hilf wrote.

“Today, we are building a portfolio of offerings in support of hybrid delivery for enterprise internal service providers, including the ability to partner with public cloud providers – spanning pure public clouds, telecom providers and local managed services companies. We are not doing pure public cloud only,” he continued. “We are not changing our strategy.”

HP launched its Helion cloud portfolio only recently, in May of last year. At the time it said it was going to invest $1 billion in cloud technologies over the next two years, but since then it’s made a number of changes that might have affected its public cloud strategy. Last October, the company said it would split itself into two, $50 billion companies, one focused on enterprise hardware and software, the other focused on PCs and printers.

More recently, HP’s Marten Mickos stepped down as head of HP’s day-to-day cloud operations in February to take up a role focusing on “customer engagement and advocacy and the different communities required to accelerate HP’s progress.”

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