HP Sticks Its Head In The Clouds, Buys IBrix

HP announced today that it has purchased data storage company IBrix in a bid to expand its cloud computing capabilities. The two companies have been partners for several years, and HP believes the acquisition "further solidifies the company’s leadership in the emerging market of scale-out and high-performance computing storage, cloud storage, and fixed content archiving. This market is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 20 percent per year, which is faster than both the network-attached storage and total external storage markets."

Translate that into English, and it reads: "We can store and retrieve your data remotely faster than you can locally, all for less than it would cost you to do the job in-house." The phrase "cloud computing" has been turned into an IT buzzword over the past few years, and applied to everything from Google Docs to the widescale on-demand storage capacity HP plans to offer. The basic idea of cloud computing is that your stuff—whatever it happens to be—isn't stored (at least not primarily) locally. If you're using Google Docs to team author a document, the document is "out there" in Google's cloud somewhere. Take this idea, extend it to cover petabytes of data storage, and add a sizeable serving of corporate IT support, and you've got the idea of the market HP wants to expand.

In theory, cloud computing makes a lot of sense across a lot of fields. Companies that can't afford to buy all-new servers or build a new server room can "rent" space from an appropriate vendor. Businesses that only occasionally need large amounts of processing power can also benefit by only renting time when they require it, rather than paying for servers that sit idle 95 percent of the time. In the real world, however, the cloud computing business model is still very much in its infancy, and you can't swing a dead cat more than two feet before you hit another company throwing mud at the wall to see what sticks.

If you need to share your documents online, Google's over
here. Amazon has computational horsepower for rent, IBM would like to sell you business services, and Sun "envision[s] a world of many clouds, both public and private, that are open and compatible. We offer an extensive portfolio of products and services and are fostering open communities and partner ecosystems to make this vision a reality." Sun also offers a PDF on Cloud Computing, should you require more information. Even Microsoft is in on the picture with the Windows Azure platform.

The likes of HP and IBM clearly believe there's big money to be made in providing "cloud" capabilities to small, medium, and enterprise-class businesses, but it takes only a cursory glance at the dizzying number of services with "cloud computing" stamped on them to realize that the would-be providers and interested sellers aren't all on the same page yet. If the cloud computing model continues to grow at the 20 percent rate HP forecasts, we'll see a corresponding trickle-down effect into consumer devices, particularly smart phones and MIDs. If that happens, it would fundamentally change the nature of computing, from a model where data is still conceptualized as being locally present to one where the availability of personal information, documents, or customized application settings is only a login away.