Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Azure sitting in a tree, p-a-r-t-n-e-r-i-n-g

The company that's definitely not HP Inc makes Microsoft its 'preferred public cloud' supplier

Hewlett Packard Enterprise is buddying up to Microsoft on public cloud, chief executive Meg Whitman has confirmed.

On a conference call with financial analysts, the exec said Microsoft Azure will become the "preferred public cloud partner" and in turn HPE will be the primary supplier of infrastructure and services for Redmond's hybrid cloud.

"Microsoft shares our view of a hybrid IT approach for enterprises and we both see opportunity to simplify hybrid infrastructure for our customers," said Whitman.

"Our goal is to help customers source, manage, and consume services across traditional, private, public, and managed cloud environments."

The agreement comes a month after HP stated it will "double down" on private and managed cloud services, and "sunset" the Helion Public Cloud in January rather than go head-to-head with AWS and Microsoft.

"This is the right move. It plays to our strength in private and managed cloud ... [we will] integrate the public cloud element for our customers through a strategic partner-based model."

There were no more details until HP's Discover event next week, but it's possible HPE is following Dell's strategy of wrapping its servers in Microsoft cloud software.

Dell kicked that off in October 2014, with the Microsoft Cloud Platform System powered by Dell for service providers. Last month came Dell Hybrid Cloud System rolling a PowerEdge R730 rack server with Azure Pack, Systems Center, and Windows Server to bridge into Microsoft's Azure cloud for everybody else in the enterprise world outside the service-provider tier.

The cloud biz at HPE generates $3bn in sales a year, according to the company, and is expected to expand by a fifth annually for the next couple of years.

This is in stark contrast to other more traditional parts of the portfolio, with only industry-standard servers and networking (due to the acquisition of Aruba) reporting top-line gains in Q4 of HP's fiscal '15 ended October.

It is five years since Microsoft first singled out Dell and HP as Azure partners. It announced Azure Appliance naming Dell and HP, with Fujitsu and eBay as early adopters in July 2010. The plan was for the first Windows Azure appliance to be delivered later in 2010, with companies building and running services before the end of the year. Appliances and services never materialized.

Gartner reckons the public cloud market will be worth $176bn this year, $205.5bn next year, and $240bn by 2017. ®

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