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HP has announced the acquisition of Canadian start-up ActiveState for an undisclosed sum. This is no big surprise, because HP was using ActiveState’s Cloud Foundry-based Stackato platform-as-a-service (PaaS) technology to underpin its own PaaS offering. It is nonetheless good news for HP and ActiveState, and might enable HP to be more articulate and vocal when it comes to PaaS. Last time Ovum talked to HP about its Helion cloud strategy, HP was very infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS)-centric. ActiveState, which has not until now resorted to any external investor and was therefore constrained in terms of finances and resources, now gets a strong backer to step up its efforts.

There are many facets to the acquisition

First, the acquisition entrenches HP at the center of the Cloud Foundry community. It not only provides HP with technology, but also skills and vision. From a technology perspective, Stackato has kept ahead of Cloud Foundry in key areas such as Docker or usability. In addition, ActiveState has so far proven right, articulate, and vocal when it comes to explaining how PaaS relates to other domains such as OpenStack IaaS, Docker containers, DevOps, and microservices. As a result, it has garnered some good traction. In the recent DZone 2015 Cloud Development Survey that canvassed the views of more than 600 IT professionals, for example, 10% of respondents listed Stackato as one of the most used open source cloud platforms, way behind OpenStack with 68%, but not so far behind Cloud Foundry itself with 26%. However, this is also because there are relatively few Cloud Foundry distributions to choose from and because two (of three) Stackato editions are available to download for free.

Second, the acquisition helps HP at both hybrid and multiple-cloud levels. Stackato is available in both private and public cloud options and runs on a variety of platforms, from Amazon Web Services and much more recently Microsoft Azure public clouds, to VMware and OpenStack-based private clouds.

Third, the acquisition reflects the efforts of the main Cloud Foundry distribution providers (not only HP, but also CenturyLink, IBM, and Pivotal) to strengthen the bonds between the Cloud Foundry PaaS and OpenStack IaaS open source communities and platforms. In this context, ActiveState will help HP in its efforts to compete with IBM, while HP will help ActiveState to compete with Pivotal. ActiveState is not only an active contributor to the OpenStack/Cloud Foundry convergence effort, but also one of the most articulate when it comes to explaining how PaaS solutions like Stackato differ from and add to IaaS platforms such as OpenStack. The acquisition removes one of the few commercially available Cloud Foundry distributions, but the continuing convergence with OpenStack might spur the launch of more commercial Cloud Foundry distributions.

Fourth, the acquisition will help HP elbow its way into the brave new world of Docker, and therefore enhance its appeal to developers. ActiveState embraced Docker, rather than Cloud Foundry’s container management system called Warden, back in 2013 when Docker was much less popular than it eventually became. The recently released Stackato version 3.6 adds the ability to deploy Docker images to Stackato in addition to using Heroku-style Buildpacks.


Further reading

SWOT Assessment: HP Helion CloudSystem Enterprise, v9.0; IT0022-000414 (July 2015)

“HP’s revitalized workforce optimization suite is worth a fresh look”, IT0020-000139 (July 2015)

SWOT Assessment: HP, ECM Suite; IT0014-003017 (May 2015)

PaaS Adoption 2: Understanding the PaaS Market, IT0022-000071 (April 2014)


Laurent Lachal, Senior Analyst, Ovum Software

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