HP Touts Own Standards for Utility Computing

By Michael Singer

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Hewlett-Packard execs are hoping to separate the company from the growing number of utility computing firms by promoting their industry standards.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based firm this week launched a multi-tiered strategy involving new servers, storage components, hardware support, and interconnects it said would help "broaden customer choices in standards-based computing." The company is augmenting the announcement with an executive summary and a multi-million dollar advertising campaign.

Dubbed "Adaptive Enterprise", HP has been working hard on building its virtualization and provisioning technologies to improve its server management software. The strategy competes directly with similar offerings such as IBM's "e-business on-demand" and "N1" by Sun Microsystems as well as burgeoning platforms from Dell, Oracle, Veritas and others.

Among the changes HP announced Monday is an expansion of its NonStop Advanced Architecture to support Intel's Itanium 2 chips; new entry-level servers new based on new Itanium 2 (Deerfield) processors; new API support for HP Labs' grid software; advanced OpenVMS to support Integrity servers transition HP's end-of-life AlphaServer install base; and HP's adoption of InfiniBand for clustered Integrity Servers running HP-UX.

"When you talk about standards, you usually are addressing things like the I/O, Java, or .NET . Those are natural assumptions," said John Raphaelson, chief architect for HP's Adaptive Enterprise program. "We are defining it as a technology or solution that our customers want that will let them be agile and be able to change with the growing needs of their business. If we help an enterprise standardize their business that is a huge value proposition for them. In that way, we can have industry standards, vertical standards and a company's own individual standards," he told internetnews.com.

In comparison to IBM and Sun, HP is already different in that it relies heavily on Intel's Itanium and Microsoft Windows server products. For example, HP is courting a huge NT installed base of Windows NT users by offering a new Windows Server 2003 migration program. The computer and printer maker is also consolidating its server to three families: NonStop, Integrity, and ProLiant -- all based on Intel chips.

Linux continues to act as a linchpin for crossover customers, but so is its HP-UX operating environment. And despite announcing an end-of-life to its homegrown 64-bit processor, HP Monday released six new server offerings including a Superdome unit that run on PA-RISC chips.

"If you look at our roadmap, we have been articulating to our E3000 customers and our HP 9000 and Alpha customers to move over to Itanium," John Miller, Director of Portfolio Marketing for Enterprise Servers and Storage said. "We have to be looking at all of our customers' needs and the PA-8800 PA-RISC microprocessor provides an easy, in-box upgrade path to Integrity servers."

In a partnership with Novell/SUSE, HP can now resell SUSE LINUX Enterprise Server 8 as part of its one to four processor Integrity servers. The deal is an extension of its current SUSE-ProLiant contract. HP already has a reseller agreement with U.S.-based Linux distributor Red Hat .

HP's movements are no surprise to analysts that say HP has to keep distinguishing themselves from the others or die trying.

"All three of the system vendors have slightly different ways of doing the same thing, but in the end it involves virtualizing and provisioning workloads," IDC research vice president Jean Bozman told internetnews.com. "The blade environment is an example of how you can apply that system management software and enter into a microcosm."

HP said is also looking at breaking down some of what it calls "monolithic structures" of a data center and place them into reusable elements. For example, the company said its new HP Client Management Solutions works on standardizing recurring desktop management tasks to make them consistent, repeatable, and measurable. HP is also addressing self-aware tape libraries designed for storage area networks.

The company is also now offering a new pay-per-use model for its StorageWorks Enterprise Virtual Array, which the company says is a new way to have flexible capacity with modular storage.

"It's similar to a metering agent located at either one of our HP data centers or at the client's location," John Miller, HP Director of Portfolio Marketing for Enterprise Servers and Storage said.

The other common denominator seems to be a combination of buying and building the strategies. Sun has added Terraspring, Pirus Networks and CenterRun. IBM has its Think Dynamics purchase, which it is playing as part of its Tivoli Intelligent Orchestrator. Last week, HP proposed buying Novadigm and Consera Software to aid its cause.

"HP's has a multi-tiered strategy -- on the one hand they join the other, traditional outsourcers at the mega-deal table and compete for big deals, expand their presence beyond HP-only hardware and infrastructure services and use their financing capability as leverage in large deals," Forrester Research vice president and Research Fellow Julie Giera told internetnews.com. "Two, they increase add-on sales opportunities and decrease sales expense by combining the organizations. Three, HP uses the direct contact with the customer to feed into R&D and product development, especially around organic IT, starting with Utility Computing. And finally, they leverage more cohesively the hardware and software assets the company has to craft solutions that are much easier to install and support."

However, some of HP's standardization goals won't kick in until later this year. The company said it will be a couple of months before its OpenVMS will be available for HP Integrity server customers. Likewise on the Johnny-come-lately list, HP said it will support InfiniBand switches and HCAs (host channel adapters) with Integrity servers running HP-UX, but not until April for high-performance technical solutions and in the fourth quarter of 2004 for highly available cluster solutions for commercial database applications.

Miller and Raphaelson also acknowledged that other forces may still play a part of HP's master plans. The company has been mulling using AMD Opteron processors but has not clearly defined its plans or set a specific date for any product announcements.