HP: The Internet

Hewlett-Packard Co. believes it has invented the formula for speaking a universal buying and selling language on the Web.

E-speak, code named Fremont, was announced as a central part of HP’s E-services initiative at a recent press gathering at the company’s Palo Alto, Calif.-based headquarters. HP promised the new software language will allow businesses on the Internet to connect, exchange information, and take actions automatically.

According to HP, E-speak is Java-based middleware that will provide dynamic discovery and brokering of e-business. Using a uniform service interface and software run-time that performs the services, E-speak could become the building blocks for a more integrated way of doing business on the Web, said Rajiv Gupta, developer of E-speak and general manager of HP’s open services operation.

“E-speak will do for E-services what the Web has done for data,” he said.

Once powered by E-speak, an E-service can advertise its capabilities to other E-services, allying with each other on the fly to create other new services.

According to Gupta, there will be an emergence of a “dynamically brokered” E-services marketplace — where requests for services are automatically brokered, bid on and transacted on the Internet on the requester’s behalf based on specified criteria, such as “best price” or “most reliable.

“This is a way for E-services to talk to each other, discover and interact with each other and transact with each other,” Gupta said. In this environment every IT resource on the Internet could potentially be made available as a service.

Ann Livermore, CEO of enterprise computing at HP, calls E-services a logical progression of the Internet. “What if customers didn’t have to go to the Web at all to access our service? This is the kind of new thinking and new opportunities E-services world provides. We’re about to make the shift from you working the Web to the Internet working for you,” she said.

In addition to E-speak, HP also announced it’s ‘Apps-On-Tap’ initiative, which involves business applications delivered as pay-as-you-go services on the Internet. These will enable companies to drive down IT costs, Livermore said. Companies can focus on building and deploying only the applications that are strategic to their business and “rent” virtually everything else as apps-on-tap, she explained.

Part of this initiative includes an alliance with Qwest Communications, with plans to jointly develop and implement an “e-services garage” incubation program to attract and support emerging e-service software companies.

PSINet also announced an outsourced e-mail initiative, a family of fully managed messaging services targeting small- and medium-sized businesses hosted on HP hardware.

As well, Microsoft and HP announced plans to offer Microsoft Exchange on a subscription basis to large companies which want to outsource their e-mail systems management. HP intends to host the Microsoft Exchange e-mail service and offer it to business customers this quarter.

The market for pay-as-you go software for key business functions, such as e-mail, purchasing, HR processes and accounting, is expected to reach US$10.1 billion by 2001, Livermore said.

Jonathan Eunice, analyst and IT advisor at Nashua, N.H.-based Illuminata, Inc., said HP was lagging in its Web strategy but has energized itself over the past six months.

“If HP is relevant, then HP can make itself relevant to e-business. There’s been a lot of trouble with HP recently – they really caught the client/server wave, but kind of missed the Internet wave. And it really wasn’t an Internet strategy that they needed so much as to get their butts kicked. They needed to feel a real sense of urgency,” he said.

“Anyone can have an Internet strategy and call it e-business. So the fact that HP has got its act back in gear and has some motion now is incredibly important.”

Eunice feels HP’s vision of portals communicating with other portals all using e-speak is probably too ambitious.

“Not everyone is going to do that. But to me that’s not a critical failure because all these revolutions take two to three years to occur. So that fact that it’s not occurring en masse is not a great complaint, as long as the company keeps working in that direction.”

Organizations currently endorsing e-speak include BEA, British Telecom, GTE, LPG Innovations Ltd., Novell, Qwest Communications and SAP AG. Several have also announced pilot programs based on e-speak including Comptel/Helsinki Telephone, Intelisys Electronic Commerce, Lexacom, Oko Bank, Oracle Corp., Radiolingua, Seagate Technology and Yomi Media.

HP expects to make its E-speak core software technology available to the development community in the third quarter of this year and intends to introduce service-creation tools, support products and consulting by the end of the year.