HP, Sun Diverge on Utility Computing

Hewlett-Packard Co. and Sun Microsystems Inc., two of the leaders in the utility computing arena, are taking decidedly different tracks as they both look to gain an advantage in the lucrative market.

Hewlett-Packard Co. and Sun Microsystems Inc., two of the leaders in the utility computing arena, are taking decidedly different tracks as they both look to gain an advantage in the lucrative market.

HP, of Palo Alto, Calif., last week announced its Flexible Computing Services, a portfolio of offerings aimed at giving customers a wide choice of server platforms and operating systems. The new services are designed to contrast with Suns grid computing push, which offers users access to compute power based on its Solaris operating system.

Aisling MacRunnels, Suns senior director of utility computing, questioned HPs initiative.

"I dont know how efficient you can be with that many variables," she said.

HP officials said it was important to give users choice. Across new offerings, customers can choose utility computing services based on 32-bit and 64-bit systems, including ProLiants running Intel Corp.s Xeon chips and Advanced Micro Devices Inc.s Opteron processor, as well as Integrity servers powered by Intels Itanium chip.

Among the five new Flexible Computing Services is the first membership service aimed at giving first-time users a low-cost way to try a utility computing service, officials said. Users can test 20 CPUs for 48 hours to see whether utility computing meets their business requirements. For $5,000, HP will give the user consulting and training services as well as dedicated space in HP data centers.

Other services offer infrastructure and operating systems on a pay-per-use basis, third-party scheduling software, and an application provisioning service that targets specific verticals.

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.

Sun, of Santa Clara, Calif., last week announced new storage services, through a partnership with London-based InTechnology plc., that it will use to augment its upcoming Sun Grid Storage Utility.

The Sun Grid RBR (Remote Backup and Restore) service and Sun Grid RFV (Remote File Vault) service will be piloted in England starting next month and likely will be offered in the United States in March, MacRunnels said.

Offered to customers through a usage-based monthly billing cycle, Sun Grid RBR is an active off-site storage service designed to eliminate remote data backup duplication by ensuring that only modified or changed data is backed up. The new service performs centralized backups of desktops, laptops, file servers, and application and database servers. Data is then copied to a remote data center for restoration on demand.

Sun Grid RFV, based on passive long-term file retention, runs on the Sun Solaris 10 operating system and allows users to archive their data without a formal backup process.

Sun rolled out its Sun Grid initiative in February, and MacRunnels said interest has come in large part from the financial services and oil and gas industries. Last week, Sun announced that its largest customer, Virtual Compute Corp., a high-performance computing provider to the oil and gas industry, has used more than 1 million CPU hours over the past few weeks, and it is working on its second million.

Ed Hawes, CEO of Virtual Compute, said his Cypress, Texas, company uses Sun Grid to supplement its operation when its resources are fully used. "The whole process here is [based on] being able to expand our compute capacity as needed," Hawes said. "Its worked pretty well. [Sun has] kept up with our demand, and I expect well continue to use it. ... This allows companies like us to extend the life span of our current infrastructure and supplement it with an even more current infrastructure."

Senior Editor Jeffrey Burt contributed to this report.

Utility computing

HP and Sun roll out new services

* HP Flexible Computing Services designed to give users choice and flexibility in platforms and payment plans

* Sun Sun Grid RBR and RFV aimed at easing storage and backup