HP Merges Utility-Computing Services Into Broad Packages

Included are servers, storage, networks, and management tools

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

December 2, 2005

3 Min Read

Tech vendors keep pitching utility computing as an exciting new recipe, but IT managers seem determined to stick with their meat-and-potatoes.

Hewlett-Packard last week moved to spice up the utility-computing market by combining individual IT services into three full-service utility-computing packages. All the large IT infrastructure equipment and service providers such as HP, IBM, and Sun Microsystems have invested heavily in the past few years to create utility-computing services that promise simplified IT operations and lower costs. Yet even after HP's latest move, all three offer the same type of basic IT infrastructure services--processing power, storage, bandwidth, and management--and charge similar prices. And none of the offerings look very exciting to most IT managers.

"IBM has spent over $100 million in the past few years trying to get business to understand utility computing," says Gartner analyst Laura McLellan. "But none of them--IBM, HP, or Sun--has really been successful to date." The challenge is changing the minds of "the control freaks that think they need to own their own stuff," she says.

Given how much IT managers need to change to adopt utility computing, it's actually off to a pretty decent start. Gartner estimates the worldwide mar-ket for IT utility-computing services will grow from $15 billion in 2004 to nearly $80 billion by 2008. As much as 50% of all data-center assets will be purchased as a service by the end of the decade, and that number is expected to grow to 75% by 2015, McLellan says.

A complete package of services with a choice of microprocessor and operating system may help attract more interest. HP's Flexible Computing Services includes systems using Advanced Micro Devices Inc. or Intel chips running HP-UX, Linux, or Windows, along with servers, storage, networks, and HP management tools. The basic Infrastructure Provision- ing Service includes all of those capabilities for prices ranging from 55 cents to $1.50 per CPU hour based on the configuration. A second service, IPS Plus, also installs and manages workload and grid-management software and compiler software for application developers using third-party software providers. Finally, the Application Provisioning Service includes IPS or IPS Plus and is tailored for specific vertical industries with specialized applications.

Drawing On Utility
One early customer of HP's utility-computing service is DreamWorks Animation SKG. DreamWorks operates a farm of servers with about 5,000 processors to render the animation used in its films. As the company was producing Shrek 2, it contracted with HP to access a 1,000-processor computing resource pool on a utility basis to meet peak-demand requirements in finishing production. It was successful enough that DreamWorks again turned to HP during production of the film Madagascar.

"We have extremely hard deadlines and we can't slip a ship date because we have things like licensing deals that are determined years in advance of the release of a film," says Mike Kiernan, head of systems infrastructure for DreamWorks Animation. Utility computing helps to meet those deadlines. "Early on, there was concern about losing control of something," he says. But when the next film came along "people viewed it as a dial they could turn" to get more computing power.

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