HP clarifies its utility computing strategy

Hewlett-Packard's Nora Denzel makes a pitch for the company's utility computing initiative.

CHICAGO -- From troubles with the justice department to problems on Wall Street, computer giant Hewlett-Packard Co. has had a tumultuous several years. But one top HP executive said her company has reconstituted and has a strategy for the future on its "implementation agnostic" utility computing program.

Speaking during an interview before attendees of TechTarget's Data Center Decisions conference last week, Nora Denzel, senior vice president and general manager of HP's software global business unit, said her company is spending more than $4 billion per year on research and development and marketing its one-year-old "adaptive enterprise" utility computing initiative.

This is IT and in IT nothing ever really dies.
Nora Denzel
Senior VP, SoftwareHewlett-Packard

Denzel told Paul Gillin, TechTarget's vice president of editorial, that HP's approach to utility computing is significantly different from its competitors' offerings in that its architecture supports any software implementation. She said the company's commitment to research and development allows HP to work closely with customers whether they use .NET or J2EE-based architecture, and regardless of their brand of database technologies and operating systems.

"It's easier for us to partner than others in the space because we choose not to compete with half of the software vendors known to man," Denzel said. "Our architecture is implementation neutral."

The Palo Alto, Calif., company first introduced "adaptive enterprise" in May 2003, saying that the program allows customers to swiftly make changes to their IT infrastructure by tightly linking business operations with IT products. The effort mirrors similar initiatives launched over the last couple by several competitors, including IBM with its "On Demand" program and Sun Microsystems' N1.

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The announcement of HP's utility computing program came one year after its high- profile acquisition of Compaq Computer Corp. Since the merger, HP has experienced several rounds of layoffs and some ups and downs on Wall Street, as investors wondered if a conjoined HP-Compaq could compete with the likes of IBM and Dell Computer Corp.

The company has also experienced internal shake-ups. Just prior to the Adaptive Enterprise announcement, HP combined its server and storage sections into one group under senior vice president Scott Stallard.

Most recently, HP has been on the upswing. In May, the company announced that profits were up significantly and raised its revenue forecast for the remainder of the fiscal year.

Central to HP's Adaptive Enterprise offering is its Self-Healing Services software, which allows servers to diagnose and repair certain problems automatically, and the Virtual Server Environment, which lets IT managers closely monitor the use of their computing resources.

During the interview, HP's Denzel also discussed current trends taking shape in the IT space today, including one forecast predicting that Intel Corp. will own the majority of data center server shipments by 2007.

Denzel said her company has a significant investment in Intel technology, and that those reports aren't surprising to her. But, she added, don't expect other processor architectures to simply disappear. "This is IT and in IT nothing ever really dies," she said.

The HP executive said the same thing for proprietary Unix, which has been struggling in recent years in the face of advancements in the Linux operating environment. "I think that proprietary Unix definitely has its spot, especially in high performance technical computing," she said.

Denzel also discussed the current trend of outsourcing IT work to third-party providers overseas. She said that she feels most of the jobs lost to outsourcing will be replaced as the economy improves and new jobs are introduced. That said, she predicted that the trend among companies toward developing global outsourcing strategies would continue.

"The big trend is IT service delivery (from) multi-sources," Denzel said.

Conference attendee William F. Slater, an IT consultant and a data center manager for Getronics in Naperville, Ill., said he thinks that utility computing vendors are starting to ease up at least a little when it comes to supporting competing implementations. But he said HP is the vendor that advertises this fact the most.

Slater, who has worked in high performance computing for nearly 30 years, said he recently visited a company where IBM workers were helping to maintain some of the former Digital Equipment Corp.'s VMS machines. Digital was purchased by Compaq in 1998, prior to the HP merger.

"I never thought I'd see the day where IBM would be doing that," Slater said. "But I think HP probably does it in more of a friendly way."

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