Carving out a space in the growing market for cloud computing, HP has launched a beta IaaS offering, called HP Cloud Services, the company announced.

The initial offerings, called HP Cloud Compute and HP Cloud Object Storage, will provide compute and storage resources from HP's own data centres. HP will use the OpenStack set of open source cloud software tools to provide the foundation for these services. HP joined the OpenStack project.

For the initial beta period, HP will not charge for either service. When the offering goes into full production mode, customers will be charged on a pay-as-you-go basis.

HP is marketing the service for a wide array of potential users, including developers, independent software vendors and organisations. The company claims that a user can provision resources within minutes.

The storage service can be used for backing up data, serving static content over the web, or for storing large data sets either for private or public consumption. With the compute service, users can upload virtual machines to HP facilities, where they can be run on an as-needed basis.

With both services, users can manage their work through a web-based user interface and REST-based APIs.

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HP has already tested the services with a few users, but now it is expanding the user base for additional testing. The company advises that, during the beta trial, users should not deploy production workloads.

HP did not reveal what it will charge for the services, nor when they will be available as full scale commercial offerings. The company would be joining a crowded field of vendors offering IaaS, such as Amazon, Microsoft and Rackspace.

In a recent survey of 3,000 chief information officers, IBM found that nearly 60 percent of CIOs are ready to incorporate cloud computing into their infrastructure, which is more than double the number of those who said they would pursue cloud computing in a similar survey two years ago.

This offering is not HP's first foray into pay-as-you-go computing. In 2005, HP launched pay-as-you-go plans for computing and applications, called the Infrastructure Provisioning Service and the Application Provisioning Service, respectively.

Interested users can register on the HP website. Beta invitees will get mock invoices, though they will not be charged. In this phase, HP will offer support through phone, chat, website or email.