HP has announced plans to withdraw its HP Helion Public Cloud services from early next year.
But the firm is not giving up on hybrid cloud just yet, and will instead focus on its hosted private cloud services in addition to the OpenStack-based private cloud software it provides to enterprise customers.
The shock announcement comes six months after HP issued a strong rebuttal to suggestions that it was planning to exit the public cloud market, based on comments by Bill Hilf, senior vice president for Helion product management, in an interview with The New York Times.
"In the past week, a quote of mine in the media was interpreted as HP is exiting the public cloud, which is not the case," Hilf wrote in a posting on the firm's HP Next site at the time.
However, it seems the rumour was true, and HP has now issued a statement confirming that it will "sunset" its HP Helion Public Cloud offering on 31 January 2016.
"As we have before, we will help our customers design, build and run the best cloud environments suited to their needs - based on their workloads and their business and industry requirements," the firm said.
This decision would seem to put HP at odds with many others in the cloud computing industry, who see hybrid cloud - the combination of on-premise private cloud resources with those from public cloud service providers - as the future of enterprise IT service delivery.
The move is no great surprise, according to Gregor Petri, Research vice president at analyst Gartner. He pointed out that the HP Helion Public Cloud was only actually available in the US, and never enjoyed much market share compared with other public clouds.
"From a European perspective, they never launched the public cloud over here, they have been selling their enterprise Virtual Private Cloud instead, so it looks like what they have been doing in Europe all along they will now do globally," he said.
But HP is not actually giving up on hybrid cloud, as it is retaining its virtual private cloud offerings, where HP and its service provider partners host what is effectively a dedicated cloud for each enterprise customer.
"The market for hybrid infrastructure is evolving quickly. Today, our customers are consistently telling us that, in order to meet their full spectrum of needs, they want a hybrid combination of efficiently managed traditional IT and private cloud, as well as access to SaaS applications and public cloud capabilities for certain workloads," Hilf wrote in a new posting on HP's Grounded in the Cloud blog.
"With these customer needs in mind, we have made the decision to double-down on our private and managed cloud capabilities. For cloud-enabling software and solutions, we will continue to innovate and invest in our HP Helion OpenStack platform," he said, referring to its software for private cloud deployments.
"On the cloud services side, we will focus our resources on our managed and virtual private cloud offerings. These will continue to expand, and we will have some very exciting announcements on these fronts in the coming weeks."
Sources close to the matter told V3 that one reason for the decision was that the public cloud offering represents such a small part of the overall Helion service portfolio that the firm decided it was no longer worth continuing to operate it.
However, HP's CloudSystem 9.0 platform, announced in June, includes HP Helion Eucalyptus, the AWS-compatible cloud platform which HP acquired last year. This enables users to run AWS workloads on a private cloud, and was pitched by HP as a way for enterprise customers to "repatriate" workloads that may have been outsourced to Amazon's cloud platform.
Reading between the lines, however, it seems that customers may have instead chosen to keep workloads running on AWS as part of a hybrid cloud strategy, but use Eucalyptus to manage them, and this may have contributed to HP's decision to pull its own public cloud offering and focus on managed services instead.
"We will continue to help our partners and to help develop the broader open cloud ecosystem, and we will continue to listen to our customers to understand how we can help them with their entire end-to-end IT strategies," Hilf said.
Petri said that HP's move can be seen as part of a wider trend in the cloud market, where enterprises are increasingly turning to managed services.
"Many of these managed service players are asking whether they need to run cloud services from their own data centres, or whether they can offer managed services on top of Amazon or Azure, like Rackspace is doing," he said.
In other words, the cloud market appears to be consolidating around big players like AWS, who are squeezing out others. But there is still room for service providers to add value on top, such as by taking over responsibility for management from their enterprise clients.
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