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HP is launching a broad cloud computing initiative called “HP Helion,” led by a former Microsoft executive, promising to invest $1 billion over the next two years toward Helion projects and doubling down on the OpenStack cloud computing platform.

Bill Hilf

Helion will be centered in downtown Seattle, where the company employs about 70 people and is aiming to hire as many as 200 more over the next 18 months — positioning itself to go toe-to-toe with Microsoft and Amazon for cloud-computing engineers.

The Helion initiative was announced tonight. HP CEO Meg Whitman will formally introduce it tomorrow.

It’s the latest sign of the Seattle region’s emergence as a center of cloud computing. The Helion project is led by Bill Hilf, HP’s senior vice president for cloud products and services, an open-source and cloud computing veteran who worked at Microsoft before joining HP last year.

“We’re hiring like gangbusters,” said Hilf, speaking from the HP offices at Seventh Avenue and Pike Street in Seattle. He cited the cloud talent pool as one of the main advantages of operating here, based on the existing concentration of cloud companies.

Helion also has operations in Silicon Valley and Austin, Texas.

In short, Helion takes some of the things HP was doing in cloud computing, adds some new things and wraps them all up in a new brand, aiming to carve out a bigger niche for the company in a part of the tech world where Microsoft, Amazon and others get the attention.

The rundown:

  • HP will offer both free and paid, commercial-grade OpenStack distributions under the Helion brand;
  • It will sell related support services, and expanding its professional services team of consultants and engineers to support the Helion products;
  • HP is creating an application development platform (a platform as a service, or PaaS) based on Cloud Foundry;
  • It’s making Helion cloud services available through 20 of its global data centers; and promising that Helion will work smoothly with HP’s server, storage and networking technology;
  • The company is also promising to indemnify its customers and their end users from any patent infringement claims.

“That’s a pretty big insurance policy for a lot of enterprises and service providers,” Hilf said of the patent indemnification. “It’s not that they think there’s something bad with OpenStack, it’s just something that they expect from a large enterprise vendor.”


HP says it will invest $1 billion over the next two years “in R&D, cloud-related product and engineering initiatives, professional services and expanding the global reach of HP Helion.”

Hilf says the target market is enterprise software developers and companies, not companies making consumer services.

In other words, Helion probably won’t be running the next Netflix or Snapchat rival. It’s more likely to be used by service providers, like telecom companies, and enterprise technology companies that sell cloud services to other companies.

Helion will compete in some ways with Google, Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services, among others, but Hilf said he expects Helion’s biggest competitor initially to be RedHat, which also offers an OpenStack distribution.

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