At HP Discover (disclosure – HP covered my T&E to attend Discover), almost half of the opening day keynote was given over to DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg to articulate why DreamWorks has gone “all in” with HP. Katzenberg’s presentation was entertaining, and told the usual tails of an industry that is undergoing seismic shifts and changes as it moves from a very manual and analog world, into an ever increasingly complex digital one. One of Katzenberg’s anecdotes was around the equipment that DreamWorks used to render the recently released Madagascar 3 film. While admitting that DreamWorks still has a fair amount of legacy kit, Katzenberg told of the growing use of HP’s cloud to perform its rendering work.

In a subsequent analyst briefing, HP’s Cloud CTO, Christian Verstraete, told the handful of analysts present that somewhere around 30% of DreamWorks rendering is occurring on HP’s standard cloud products, built on top of OpenStack. I was tweeting during the briefing and this caused a flurry of excitement amongst highly dubious industry insiders. Many of these people remain skeptical over the readiness of OpenStack generally, the degree to which HP has had to modify OpenStack to make it work, and the actual uptake of HPs own cloud offerings.

I put this to Verstraete, and was careful to get a definitive answer from him without and marketing spin. I asked Verstraete three distinct questions;

Is DreamWorks using the stock standard HP cloud?

Verstraete was adamant that this is indeed the case – there is nothing special about the product DreamWorks is using. It was a direct question with a direct answer and, notwithstanding the fact that many of my colleagues are dubious, I have no reason to doubt that assertion.

How long has DreamWorks been using it?

Again Verstreate was emphatic, DreamWorks was one of the launch customers of the HP cloud back in beta and has been using it since

How much work has HP done on the OpenStack product, and will this code be donated back to the foundation?

This gets a little less definitive. Verstraete indicated that HP will donate back the code it has created for core parts of OpenStack, however there are peripheral developments that they created which would become proprietary. In a follow up email I pressed Verstraete on this and he told me that HP has done two things around OpenStack;

  • Hardening of the code and donation back to the community. (Apparently some of that is now part of the Essex release which by all accounts is more stable than the Diablo release
  • Adding quite some functionality around OpenStack, some of it using OpenSource products, some of it using proprietary products (for example HP’s security offering including Tipping Point and ArcSight)


Verstraete provided me with the following diagram to conceptually describe what they took from OpenStack and what was built additionally:



All very complex but here are a few thoughts I have regarding all of this;

I believe that DreamWorks is using the standard HP cloud product now, however I would be surprised if DreamWorks was using HP’s initial product which all reports tell me was built upon OpenStack’s Diablo release which many questioned the scalability of – I just don’t buy it that DreamWorks would trust a product that was still immature. The more pressing question here is one of forking. If we look at Verstraete ’s email, we see a significant number of areas shaded blue – ie those areas which are now proprietary to HP. from service management to resource metering, from security to storage – it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that the HP cloud is indeed a fork of OpenStack rather than simply a flavor.

I’ve long said that, as with most OpenSource projects, the challenge for OpenStack is in balancing innovation with fragmentation – having dozens of different branches of OpenStack doesn’t help anyone’s story of eminently portable workloads. At the same time the more controlling the OpenStack foundation is, the more it risks being criticized for being heavy-handed. It really is a lose/lose situation and it’s for this reason that the next few months are critical for OpenStack as partners HP, Dell and IBM decide on their OpenStack strategies.

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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