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Now that Hewlett-Packard is going deeper into OpenStack open-source cloud software, it needs allies to face off against other blue-chip tech vendors making similar noises, like Cisco and Dell.

Today HP pulled the trigger on a partnership strategy that could popularize HP’s OpenStack products and services, which now fall under the moniker Helion.

The new plan, dubbed HP Helion Network, will loop in software makers, system integrators, and resellers to provide a wide range of tools. AT&T and Intel are participating in the initiative, according to a statement.

Companies that join up with HP in the new program will get to sell more types of cloud services and collaborate on sales and marketing work, among other perks.

And these features could help HP become a more compelling choice when companies big and small think about building clouds.

But it’s important to think about HP’s challenges here.

For one thing, it faces major competition in the hybrid cloud game. Cisco, for instance, has set out to work with partners on its OpenStack-compatible Intercloud strategy. And IBM continues to gear up on OpenStack, while its public cloud has become increasingly full-featured in recent months. And IBM also has a cloud marketplace spanning several categories.

And that’s not all. Analysts have pointed out how HP changes course too frequently to gain serious traction in any one direction. That criticism could apply here; perhaps HP could ditch the partnerships if they don’t impact the bottom line as much as executives might want them to.

Then again, it’s possible these big cloud technology vendors will form an alliance that could cause concern at growing public cloud providers, like Amazon Web Services and Google. Or perhaps those companies will get in on the fun, too.

A pilot program for the Helion Network will begin in the fourth quarter of this year, when HP’s distribution of OpenStack becomes available.

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