Microsoft and HP say they’ll spend $250 million on cloudy collaboration

Specific plans were vague when Steve Ballmer and HP CEO Mark Hurd took the stage at Interop yesterday. But one number was very clear: 250 million. That’s the number of dollars the two CEO’s said they would commit to spending on a unified approach toward enterprise-level products over the next few years.

“This is all cloud-motivated,” Ballmer said. “The cloud means you need a modern architecture for how you build and deploy applications, an integrated stack from hardware to the virtualization layer to the management layer to the application model. The cloud is the driving force behind this deal.”

Among the technologies that Ballmer and Hurd emphasized as key to the partnership are virtualization, systems management and storage. One specific example they gave was a project to have an HP hardware solution that is optimized to run MS SQL Server and Hyper-V virtualization software.

The most concrete agenda item is a Microsoft commitment to buy HP hardware for the data centers used to run Windows Azure. That alone could represent the bulk of this quarter billion: Microsoft is said to have committed $500 million to build the Azure data center.

Contrary to some reports, this is not a joint venture: no new company is being formed. This appears to be an extension of the type of partnership the two companies have engaged in for years. This time, however, they are trying to gain some momentum around cloud computing.

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