This week I attended HP ISS Tech Day at Hewlett-Packard's Houston facility along with several other bloggers. We were given a tour and demonstrations of HP's Industry Standard Servers (ISS) technology. We didn't see new, unreleased products and we didn't talk about potential tech breakthroughs of the future. We focused entirely on technologies HP offers today and how those technologies can benefit IT workers.

HP assumes clouds will be ubiquitous - either private or public - and the the ISS Tech Day was all about technologies making it easier and faster to deploy private clouds.

What is a Private Cloud?

Definitions of cloud computing are always hard to pin down, and it seems cloudwash is everywhere. We've been skeptical about the terms "private cloud" and "cloud in a box" before, but in many ways it comes down to a fundamental question: what is a cloud?

HP decided to get that question out of the way early in the day. The common characteristics of a cloud, according to HP's Daniel Bowers:

  • A pool of resources that can be allocated and modified elastically.
  • A means for requesting and granting access to resources.
  • Optionally, a means to measure and bill for those resources.

It doesn't matter if those resources are in a public data center or a private data center.

So for our purposes a private cloud is any means of delivering elastic resources to users from within the firewall. That means you lose one advantage of using a public cloud - paying for only what you use. But you do retain one important advantage: you don't have to over-invest in every single server if each server has a pool of resources to draw from.

Via Wikipedia:

Douglas Parkhill first described the concept of a "Private Computer Utility" in his 1966 book The Challenge of the Computer Utility. The idea was based upon direct comparison with other industries (e.g. the electricity industry) and the extensive use of hybrid supply models to balance and mitigate risks.

Private cloud and internal cloud have been described as neologisms, however the concepts themselves pre-date the term cloud by 40 years. Even within modern utility industries, hybrid models still exist despite the formation of reasonably well-functioning markets and the ability to combine multiple providers.

POD-Works, an Assembly Line for Data Centers


An HP POD. Photos by Klint Finley

HP's POD-Works facility custom builds modular data centers that can be delivered to a customer's site. POD stands for Performance Optimized Data Center. Shipping container-esque modular data centers have been around for a few years, but HP offers a new twist: it's taking advantage of assembly line productivity to produce these data centers faster and cheaper.

HP claims that not only can it do all the work of setting up racks, wiring, optimizing power consumption and building out the full data center for you - it claims it can do so at the fraction of the cost of doing it yourself. HP takes advantage of assembly line productivity to industrialize the process of creating data centers.


Left: A completely wired rack from the above POD. Right: The assembly line floor. Photos by Klint Finley

According to The Register, the PODs can cost about $1.5 million - not including servers, storage and switches. However, that can still be significantly cheaper than building a brick and mortar data center.

Here's a video from HP explaining a bit more:

This video is a bit longer and more detailed:

We can very much see this becoming part of how data centers are built in the future. HP is trying to make it easier not just to virtualize and manage infrastructure, but it make it easier to implement actual physical infrastructure as well. It brings a whole new meaning to the term "cloud in a box."

HP's POD-Works competes with other modular data center vendors, such as Oracle's Sun Modular Data Center.

Next: Power management, I/O virtualization and a bit of cloud history.

Disclosure: HP is a ReadWriteWeb sponsor, and paid for Klint Finley's travel and accommodations to attend HP ISS Tech day.