HP tried to set itself apart from rival Sun Microsystems and its Sun Grid utility computing service by giving customers a choice of server platforms and operating systems in the new HP Flexible Computing Services.
Across four new offerings customers can choose utility computing services based on 32-bit and 64-bit systems based on Intel Xeon- and AMD Opteron-based HP ProLiant systems as well as Intel Itanium-based HP Integrity servers. Those can run Linux, HP UX or Windows. Sun Grid is based on Sun servers running Solaris.
Among the five new HP Flexible Computing Services is the first membership service aimed at giving first-time users a "low-cost, low-risk way to try a utility computing service," said Ben Bauer, worldwide marketing manager for utility computing services at HP, in Palo Alto, Calif.
Users can test 20 CPUs for 48 hours to see whether utility computing meets their business requirements. For $5,000, a new club member "gets HP consulting, training, we establish their profile and give them a dedicated home node in our data centers," described Bauer. As part of the club membership, users get a first-year pilot. If after the 48-hour testing the customer decides to move forward with 90 days of the pilot, the $5,000 is credited to their order. "It lets them start up fast," added Bauer.
Other new services in the portfolio include a new Infrastructure Provisioning Service in which HP provides a server/storage/interconnect infrastructure with an operating system on a paid-per-hour basis. The infrastructure is based on HP products, which HP owns, and HP uses its software tools and process to manage the infrastructure. The customer provides and manages the application.
An alternate Infrastructure Provisioning Service Plus offering adds scheduling software from HP ISV partners that HP installs and manages. It can include compiler software for application developers. Partners participating in this offering include Platform Computing, DataSynapse Inc., United Devices Inc., Altair Engineering Inc. and PathScale Inc.
The third new HP Flexible Computing Service is a unique Application Provisioning Service that targets specific vertical industry applications. Based on vertical ISV software, the first offering in this service is focused on Computer Aided Engineering. Specific applications provide structure, crash and fluid analysis and are based on software from partners such as MSC Software Corp., Livermore Software Technology Corp., Abaqus Inc. and Fluent Inc.
HP intends to extend the APS offering to other vertical markets and applications, such as financial services, health sciences, oil and gas non-seismic exploration, and software development and testing, according to Bauer.
Schlumberger for example, is working with HP to give its customers extra computing cycles required for running large numbers of reservoir simulations.
Sun Microsystems reacted to the HP utility computing news by touting the merits of its Sun Grid offering. "With Sun Grid, we continue to drive an industry paradigm shift—one where customers have the flexibility to purchase compute power when and how they need it, all while knowing very clearly how much it will cost," said Aisling MacRunnels, senior director of utility computing at Sun. "Customers can use as little as one CPU or as many as millions of CPUs without any arduous negotiations, set-up time or requirement to buy complex custom outsourced services as part of the deal. Sun understands that a clear, consistent approach is what will ultimately turn the promise of utility computing into a reality," she added.
For its part Sun announced on Tuesday two new services for its forthcoming Sun Grid Storage Utility. They include Sun Grid Remote Backup and Restore Service and Sun Grid Remote File Vault for U.K.-based customers. The services are based on data management software from UK partner InTechnology Plc.
All the new HP Flexible Computing Services offerings are available now.