HP chief executive Leo Apotheker has announced at a user conference in Las Vegas that the company is setting aside $2 billion (£1.2 billion) to help the adoption of cloud systems.

On the big screen at its user conference, HP executives showed the practice of cloud computing "bursting", or of workloads being shifted to an external cloud provider.

Irv Rothman, who heads HP Financial Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of the company, said HP will use financial tools, such as sale and lease back, where HP buys a customer's assets and then leases them back for a specific period of time. It monetizes those assets and provides customers with a pool of cash, he said.

Rothman said sale-and-lease-back programs aren't new, but a desire to move to the cloud is spiking interest in them. "We've got a lot of CFOs asking about it now," he said.

Part of the appeal of the cloud is the ability to "burst" to external providers, or add capacity to provision peak workloads as needed, such as holiday buying demand, for just a few hours or a few months. It is seen as a less costly alternative to leasing rack space.

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By the end of the year, HP plans to launch this bursting capability and expects to have a list of cloud providers that are integrated into its systems. Managed hosting provider Savvis will be one of the providers, with others to be announced.

Among those at the conference is Shawn Wales, who runs the global performance testing team for Deere & Co, heavy farm and construction equipment maker. Wales sees clear benefits to the concept of cloud bursting, but also has questions about its implementation.

"We have needed the ability to burst up - in our business, we're very cyclical," said Wales, particularly around the harvesting and planting seasons. "Having that capability is a game changer," he said. Wales said the company is still using traditional methods for adding capacity, namely ordering racks from a provider. But the ramp time for that additional capacity is long.

But Wales questioned whether there will be a standard method of deployment.

"Developing a standard about how to deploy these applications," in a cloud infrastructure, Wales said, "is really to me the bigger piece than the cloud aspect itself."

"If you can't either have a middle layer that figures it out for you [the application deployment], or the vendors come to a standard, it's going to take a long time to move forward," Wales said.

Nick van der Zweep, director of HP's business strategy, industry standard servers and software, said HP is creating connectors that work with the various APIs of cloud providers, but said the company is also "concurrently working with the industry" on how to develop standards. He said his group is working on developing standards with the Distributed Management Task Force, a standards body.

Darius Hakimi, a business development manager at Norway-based integrator Atea, said he wants more detail about HP's cloud bursting technology, but also said he's likely to be cautious initially.

"I think this is probably the first implementation of it, so being the very careful person that I am, I'll probably wait for the second implementation of it," Hakimi said.