HP and Microsoft are teaming up again, this time to simplify deployment and support for Windows Azure-based Exchange, SQL Server and other applications by pre-testing integration and optimisation with hardware, virtualisation, systems management tools and services in an effort to speed up progress to public and private cloud computing. (Phew.)
 
The idea is that tools like HP's Insight Software and Business Technology Optimisation and Microsoft's System Center and Hyper-V Server will be tested with applications, servers and storage to simplify the path for customers moving to a Microsoft cloud model. The firms said 11,000 consulting staff would be trained to deploy and support the stacks.

"The fact that our two companies are very directed at the cloud are the driving force [behind the announcement]," said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

The firms also rejected the notion that this was just another bundling deal, stressing that it was a significant engineering exercise.

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HP CEO Mark Hurd said the $250m investment "is breakthrough stuff for us" and represents "very deep levels of alignment". 

It might sound dull but the key to this announcement will be whether HP emerges as the dominant partner for Microsoft on cloud deployments in the same way that, say, Sun and Oracle once worked together hand in glove. Watch this space to see how the likes of IBM, Dell and Fujitsu respond...