Users support HP’s new pricing, infrastructure

Hewlett-Packard Co.’s strategy to help customers build an always-on, pay-as-you go, Internet-based IT infrastructure garnered support from users at this year’s HP World user conference.

But there are several core technology and business issues that need to be addressed before the company can fully deliver on that vision, users said.

Under HP’s Always-on Internet Infrastructure strategy, the company is building hardware, software and electronic service technologies that it claims will enable users to build powerful, highly scalable and flexible data center architectures at a lower cost than today’s technologies permit.

Instead of having to dedicate specific resources to specific applications, as is the case with today’s data centers, users increasingly will be able to share and reprovision their computing resources across multiple applications as the need arises, said HP.

In this model, a server that runs one application in the morning can be freed up to run another one at night or even instantly, if the need arises with all of the reprovisioning work being managed from a central console. Applications will be able to use the resources of multiple servers within one data center or across multiple data centers.

This kind of always-on infrastructure will allow companies to make better use of their computing resources, deliver better process efficiencies and provide for greater scalability, said Jean-Louis Matton, a systems and network administrator at the hospital affiliated with the Catholic University of Louvain in Brussels.

HP said it would also provide usage monitoring and management technologies that will let companies pay for this system on a utilitylike pay-for-use model.

In the Right Direction

Technologies such as the HP Hyperplex server consolidation platform and the Instant Capacity on Demand feature on its high-end Superdome Unix servers (see story below), are examples of enabling technologies that HP will deliver in the next several months, said Andy Ledbetter, an HP manager, during a technical session at the show.

“As a user, this is generally a direction I’d like to see HP move in,” said Edward H. Witkow, director of IT at Metaldyne Corp., a US$2.3 billion supplier of metal components in Plymouth, Mich. The utilitylike computing HP is talking about will lower costs and improve the predictability of IT budgets, said Witkow, who is also chairman of Interex, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based user group that organizes HP World.

But there are issues that HP needs to address first, he said. For instance, HP’s Instant Capacity on Demand technology lets users quickly add capacity when needed. But so far, there’s no way for users to decrease that capacity when it’s no longer needed, Witkow said.

Similarly, the success of usage-based pricing depends on how HP and others will charge, said a user at a large aerospace company who didn’t want to be named. Usage models like the kind being pushed by HP make little sense if they end up costing more than an outright purchase would, he said.

Companies also need to invest in high-speed LAN, WAN and wireless connections among servers, mobile devices and data centers before the kind of shared-resource environment HP is talking about can become a reality, users said.

HP’s moves are part of a bid by the company to transform itself into a more IBM-like, services-led organization at a time when its core hardware business seems to be faltering. The firm has lost market share to both IBM Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. and ranked fourth behind Compaq Computer Corp. last year in overall server sales.

As one of the companies that went aggressively after the dot-com market, HP is also one of the hardware vendors that have been hardest hit in the current market slowdown. Despite having recorded a profit of more than $100 million in the last quarter, overall revenue dropped 14 per cent to just over $10 billion.