RealTime IT News

HP the Utility Tycoon

PALO ALTO, Calif. -- HP is setting up a potentially disruptive system based on its utility technology, one that could force companies into bidding wars over IT resources.

Researchers at the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company's laboratory profiled a new software application called Tycoon. The framework sits above the application layer and augments HP's Adaptive Enterprise strategy with a combination of Service Oriented Architectures (SOA), virtualization and Model-Driven Automation (MDA) to create a so-called "implementation agnostic" configuration.

The goal is to use open standards and the market's existing infrastructure to power the business-centric management tool instead of relying on a future technology. HP's Adaptive Enterprise offerings compete with similar utility computing platforms offered by IBM and Sun Microsystems .

HP has already field-tested Tycoon with media partner DreamWorks for parts of the Shrek II movie. The company said it has ported several unnamed applications and has been running tests out of its host centers in Palo Alto, Calif., and Bristol, England.

During a briefing at its R&D labs here, Russ Daniels, HP vice president and CTO for the Software & Adaptive Enterprise group, said the company has been working with several of the standards communities and will soon be deploying Tycoon for testing at the birth place of the Web: CERN.

"Certainly, the work we've done with the Grid and Web services standards communities, such as GGF [global grid framework], has paid off," Daniels told internetnews.com. "We have the framework in place for several extensions, such as soft UDC [Utility Data Center] and PlanetLab, and hope to bring this to a wider market soon."

In HP's vision, companies barter or bid on CPU computer resources within internal divisions or with other companies within a broader market depending on the size and immediacy of a project.

Similar to the gas, water and electric utility markets, Daniels said Tycoon even has the potential of establishing a Tycoon commodities market that could be bought and sold on the public stock exchanges. He said the current test beds are also trying to solve some of the problems that the energy companies have suffered in the past, such as outages and billing discrepancies.

Nora Denzel, HP senior vice president and general manager of the Adaptive Enterprise and Software Global Business Unit, told internetnews.com that Tycoon accommodates for the wide range of billing options that HP Services uses (price-per gigahertz, per CPU, per user, etc.).

"What we realized a couple of years ago is that business decisions all trigger a series of IT events, and that the more you automate the IT events, the faster you can respond and automate the mundane," Denzel said, noting that the company's experience with outsourcing (internally and externally) has helped it understand the challenges of becoming a provider and enabling others to do the same.

According to Denzel, HP's Adaptive Enterprise services contracts raked in $7.2 billion in revenue in 2003 and are expected to double in growth relatively soon. The company is scheduled to report fourth-quarter earnings next Tuesday.

In addition to Tycoon, HP's Labs are also slowly rolling out its Shared Application Server Utility (SASU). The platform addresses the under utilization of server resources and uses virtual containers to share applications on the same box, such as application and Web servers. Unlike similar container-based resource allocations from rivals like Sun, HP said its SASU runs above the operating system, which the company said gives the platform a flexibility advantage of not being locked into a particular operating system.

The framework is also running internally at HP to help consolidate resources accumulated from its Compaq merger. Daniels said HP is on a track to reduce the company's glut of 4,000 applications, 19,000 servers and 85 data centers down to 1,500 applications, 10,000 servers and 11 data centers.