HP announced intentions to take on Amazon in the public cloud infrastructure as a service (IaaS) arena. However, the beta announcement has little to no information about why anyone should consider HP Cloud over Amazon and other public cloud IaaS providers.

Little to differentiate HP Cloud Services thus far
HP’s recently launched beta of HP Cloud Services provides users access to two initial offerings, HP Cloud Compute and HP Cloud Object Storage. HP describes the beta as an opportunity to try these two services “through our easy to use, web-based UI on top of open, RESTful APIs, based on HP’s world-class hardware and software, and OpenStack technology.”

These two cloud offerings compete directly with Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and Simple Storage Service (S3) cloud services.

In describing HP Cloud Compute or HP Cloud Object Storage, HP makes no claims about why a company, ISV or developer should be interested in HP’s public cloud, over Amazon’s AWS cloud or other alternatives.

Enterprise-grade SLAs, management and monitoring, or hybrid cloud support, or differentiated pricing would all have been areas that HP could have used to differentiate HP Cloud Services.

But no. Instead, there is a seemingly random point about the HP Cloud being based on OpenStack technology. A point that received a lot of press, mind you. But let’s look at the reality here. HP joined the nascent OpenStack project on July 27, 2011. Knowing a thing or two about launching products within a large company, it’s very difficult to believe that HP could have altered their HP Cloud offerings in a meaningful fashion in a month.

HP’s cloud blog does make the OpenStack effort a little more real. HP’s Emil Sayegh writes: “HP developers are already active and many of our ideas will be shared at the upcoming OpenStack Design Summit and Conference, of which we are a sponsor.”

At this point, the OpenStack linkage with HP Cloud Services seems like a distraction. Hopefully this will change over time.

Why HP didn’t make more reference to its monitoring and management capabilities, areas where HP could clearly differentiate itself with Amazon AWS, is an open question. It could be that HP is targeting the broad market, and is less interested in enterprises at this time. The fact that HP is requiring a credit card for billing could be a tip here.

Asking clients interested in public clouds why they’re not using Amazon AWS today, I’ve often heard responses to the effect: “because my IT department doesn’t run on a credit card.”

Billing through a credit card absolutely lowers the bar to entry to HP Cloud Services. But it also turns of enterprise IT departments.

HP’s silence on pricing poses barrier to entry
Staying on the pricing thought, HP states the following on its website:

Stay tuned for information on pricing. We’ll communicate more before we begin charging for services.

Developers and enterprise IT should be concerned about devoting time to HP Cloud Services before pricing is known. It’s curious that HP decided to launch the beta without any pricing details just weeks after Google faced developer backlash after substantially raising prices once App Engine left preview mode.

Considering HP’s enterprise software and hardware heritage one could argue that HP will price higher than Amazon’s AWS, but offer higher value to enterprises. However, the focus on broad based developers, and requiring a credit card access to the beta, suggests aggressive pricing versus Amazon’s AWS. We’ll have to wait for additional information from HP to know for sure. If that makes you uncomfortable before approving proof of concept usage of HP Cloud Services, you should be.

Ask for clarity before devoting your time
Taking my vendor hat off for a minute, it’s absolutely within your rights as buyers and users to ask vendors, HP in this case, for clarity before making investment decisions. You and your teams have too much on your plates to work on proof of concepts without understanding how your business will benefit and what it’ll cost.

I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies, or opinions.