HP Aims at Data Center

Company unveils 45 integrated services management software products.

Despite its pending merger with hardware provider Compaq Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. last week reasserted itself as a major software company, introducing 45 new or enhanced offerings targeting the data center, middleware and management.

HP, in its second big foray this year into the software arena, rolled out the offerings under an integrated services management banner, with HPs Netaction middleware line providing the service creation and delivery tools and its OpenView line providing service assurance and usage management.

The centerpiece is a bundling of software and services aimed at helping service providers and enterprises improve data center efficiency. The HP Utility Data Center is a combination of software and services designed to virtualize a data center, allowing resources to be directed to meet shifting demands of applications.

"There are many times I wished I could turn off existing infrastructure and recoup those dollars when Im not using it," said Mark Whatman, chief architect for Infrastructure Architecture at Avaya Inc., in Maitland, Fla.

"Using what I need when I need it would let me budget more efficiently. I wouldnt have to buy eight CPUs because I need [them] for one week a year," Whatman said.

Such shifting is done through HPs new Utility Controller Software, which generically views data center resources as storage, network or computing devices. The controller software includes a RAL (Resource Abstraction Layer) driver that allows different hardware to be recognized by the system.

HP created RAL drivers for all its computer systems and storage products, as well as for products from EMC Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., Brocade Communications Systems Inc. and Foundry Networks Inc. HP, of Palo Alto, Calif., will create custom RAL drivers, and it is working with partners that will create their own RAL drivers.

"Conceptually, it sounds to me like theyre addressing a requirement weve already had to build for ourselves, which was very painful," said Doug Carwardine, vice president of business development at Nuvo Network Management Inc., a management service provider in Ottawa. "Its a real technical challenge to build a data center that lets you share the economies of scale."

As part of the announcement, HP also said it was pushing forward the use of Web services by offering the HP Application Server for free.

IBM last week, as part of its eLiza self-healing and management initiative, introduced services and supporting technologies designed to monitor and map the computing and networking components involved in business processes. The services suite, formerly called e-Business Management Services, alerts users to risks that can affect a business process. The notification is provided in a dashboard graphical interface.

As part of the services package, IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., uses a self-optimizing tool that dynamically allocates capacity to prioritize business transactions.

The IBM and the HP offerings come at a steep price. HP, for its part, said it believes that the entry-level cost will be about $1 million, depending on the size of the data center. Despite a potential cost reduction of up to 50 percent for a large data center, the offering makes sense only for data centers with at least 100 to 200 servers, according to HP officials.