At HP’s Discover event here in Frankfurt today, the company will be announcing a private PaaS offering, built on top of Stackato, the PaaS which is itself a fork of the open source Cloud Foundry initiative. HP has entered into an agreement with ActiveState, the company behind Stackato, to OEM its platform and integrate it with HP’s infrastructure services. This is particularly interesting since HP has spent a lot of time this week talking about the fact that IT is traditionally seen as a blocker to innovative use within the enterprise – and that HP sees its role as being a facilitator and an enabler of outcomes that meet the needs of the business, while still within the frameworks IT needs.

As such, this deal is very much a coup for ActiveState – the fact that HP didn’t chose to build the product themselves, and further chose Stackato out of all the possible solutions to license, indicates the good fit – Stackato very much positions itself as the preeminent provider of private polyglot PaaS – so do other vendors, but HP’s decision is a real validation for the Canadian company.

A little background on the company – Stackato allows developers to use a range of different languages – Java, Ruby, Python, Perl, Node.js and PHP among them. The parent company ActiveState has a long history – according to the company, over two million developers and 97% of Fortune-1000 companies use ActiveState’s solutions for their software applications.

Of course this partnership could potentially be a poisoned chalice – large technology companies, HP included, have a history of embarking on partnerships and initiatives with much fanfare – only to drop them when the going gets tough. As a third party supplier – ActiveState has a lot hinging on the success of this initiative and this in itself raises some issues – HP is a massive and complex organization with, alas, not much of a consistent story across its myriad divisions. Its sales force is similarly ill-equipped to sell effectively into a software world, far less a world embracing service-based offerings up the stack from infrastructure. As such this partnership introduces significant challenges alongside the obvious opportunities.

It’s also interesting when looked at through the Cloud Foundry lens. Stackato is a fork of the core Cloud Foundry initiative – while it supports the base Cloud Foundry APIs, it’s been built out deeper than the initial offering. This gives a glimpse into the tensions and concerns within the Clodu Foundry ecosystem about VMware’s intentions for the project. The announcement yesterday of the Pivotal Initiative, and the fact that Cloud Foundry looks destined to be part of a spun out company, makes this announcement all the more interesting.

It’s not all negative for HP however. PaaS is, I believe, the future of the cloud and, more importantly, provides an opportunity for large traditional IT vendors like HP to bridge to offerings that will be compelling in the future world. Of course the fact that they can sell some cloud servers to run the new private PaaS offering doesn’t hurt either and I’m looking forward to seeing how seriously the company articulates the value of this product. I was speaking to some people at dinner in Frankfurt tonight about what HP needs to do to provide this consistent message – despite the obvious sensitivity around anything Autonomy-related right now – it is products like Autonomy and Stackato that give them the opportunity to be compelling in the new world – let’s hope they grab the opportunity with both hands!

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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