HP's latest effort at giving admins insight into the cloud

The whole point of drawing the mass of interconnected processors and storage units as a "cloud" in the first place was to give customers the impression that they didn't have to bother themselves with the configuration or the administration or anything whatsoever about the texture of where their services were being housed. But when those customers have customers of their own, the notion that a business' processes, logic, and vital data are being housed in some distant and texture-less nebula tends not to inspire confidence.

So businesses that want to deploy cloud services of their own are faced with two competing pressures: the need to cut costs and reduce overhead, and the need to ensure security and privacy. While the whole cloud metaphor does seem comfortable on the surface, the disconnect between a company and the resources it entrusts to the cloud may be the source of some stress.

This week, during an important Cloud Computing conference in New York, HP is taking a step to bridge this gap: Today, it's announcing a SaaS package called Cloud Assure, which gives businesses the option of literally hiring HP to monitor the status of their cloud-based resources, and provide regular reports.

"HP Cloud Assure leverages HP software, delivered through HP Software-as-a-Service by a team of expert engineers with years of experience in utilizing HP software to perform security scans, execute performance tests, and deploy availability monitoring," reads an HP white paper released this morning (PDF available here). "Your point of contact is a named HP technical account manager (TAM), whose main responsibility is to make sure your cloud services meet your requirements. The TAM and the engineering team work closely with you to gather information such as, in the case of a SaaS service, the cloud provider hosting the application, the environment it runs in, and your critical business processes."

The company is promising some very detailed reports to emerge from this SaaS package, including an analytical assessment of users' experiences working with cloud-based services, and vulnerability reports that could reveal where personally identifiable information, for example, travels portions of the cloud without enough cloud to cover it up -- in other words, in the clear.

Application load testing will periodically check whether services have enough regular bandwidth and availability to perform their core function at various times of the work day. And in cases where businesses deploy middleware services in the cloud (SharePoint sites come to mind), testing will make certain that the middleware host -- perhaps outside the cloud -- is doing what it needs to do to ensure transaction security moving inside the cloud.

Availability of this SaaS package depends on how soon HP partners will be able to begin reselling it. An introductory seminar for current partners interested in reselling Cloud Assure is scheduled for 11:00 am EDT Tuesday, and may be available for later replay.

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